Nextcloud(2)

As promised the server now runs Nextcloud and MySQL. Unfortunately Nextcloud was forked from the latest version of ownCloud and requires the latest ownCloud client on the desktop. Which wasn’t supported by my operating system a LTS version of Linux Mint based on Ubuntu 14.10. So I waited for the next KDE version of Mint to arrive, which it did in September. Now Nextcloud syncs everything with my desktop, which is fine except that the desktop is temporarily set up in the garage of our temporary accommodation. Until we move to our (hopefully) final destination I’m using an old (Bodhi Linux) laptop which runs the client fine, but I daren’t sync too much because the disk isn’t that big.

The other ‘interesting’ issue is remote access to the server which is being blocked somewhere. It’s fine via the LAN but not via the Internet. I’m beginning to wonder if my new ISP contract has something to do with it, even though it’s the same company. More on this when I get to the bottom of it.

Nextcloud

I’ve blogged about ownCloud before, and written a couple of features about it for MM. Unlike a lot of software that I’ve installed, tested, written about then forgotten, ownCloud is in regular use.

My entire /home/phil directory is synced to an ownCloud server, which is just an old Athlon 3500+ desktop sat in my office, and I can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s so convenient I’ve installed the client on my wife’s PC and use a folder we can both access for simple file transfers between our machines. Changes are afoot though some falling out between the majority of ownCloud devs and the management of the ownCloud company which markets the supported commercial version has led to the majority of devs leaving.

Being open source of course they left with a full copy of the source code which they have forked to create Nextcloud, and have just put out their first release with instructions for upgrading from ownCloud.

We’re moving house soon (-ish subject to lawyers) so the server and network is all going to be packed away. Once we’re settled I think I’ll stick a new disk in the server and install Nextcloud from scratch, and do it right this time using MySQL rather than the default SQLite.

It’s Cloudy again

ownCloud on my webserver works just fine. But the obvious snag is that web host companies charge for storage space, and generally charge more than a dedicated cloud storage provider. ownCloud have thought of this and provide a plugin to connect to external storage using various common protocols.

Given that I got into ownCloud because I want to avoid government snoops and US corporates selling my data I want a UK based cloud storage provider that allows access by FTP or SFTP. There are several issues.

A lot of companies with a UK website turn out to be branches of US companies who don’t disclose where there servers are. Many companies provide cheap, even free, storage but only if you use their Windows, Mac or Mobile client software. Won’t link to ownCloud unless you pay for the ‘Pro’ package which often starts at £10/month. I did find one exception, Memset which charges 4p/GB/month. Set up is easy and it links to ownCloud via FTP or SFTP. But I can’t make it accept files.

In desperation I signed up to a 30 day free trial with iWeb. It also uses FTP and connects to ownCloud just like Memset – but it works. This demonstrates to my satisfaction it’s not me or ownCloud at fault, so I’ve filed a support ticket with Memset. I hope they fix it, after 30 days iWeb gets expensive!

The long term plan is to mirror my entire /home/phil directory on ownCloud so I can work anywhere without needing to remember what to copy/backup before I go.

 

No More Google

I’m not paranoid, nor a conspiracy theorist, but I do like my privacy. I choose what goes on my website and it’s all business stuff, family life is off limits. Big business doesn’t work like that, they want to know as much as possible about everyone because they think it makes it easier to sell things to us. Google is way out in front on this, so I’ve decided to opt out of all things Google, no more Gmail, Google+, Docs, Maps or Play. Read the full story here.

ownCloud (2)

SSL certificates being expensive I discovered that my web host offers a ‘shared SSL’ system. Basically the hosting company pays for secure site on https, sets up pages for it’s customers, then forwards to the customer’s page.

So I got a secure link to my ownCloud free. Setting up was fairly simple, but then I’m a bit of a geek who enjoys fiddling around with anything techie, if you’re not, then stick with Dropbox or similar.

ownCloud has Contacts and Calendar apps that now sync with my (Kubuntu) desktop and Android phone and Tab. The calendar even syncs with my wife’s iPad so she can tell me what I’m doing.

There’s a ‘Docs’ app too that so far only allows you to edit .odt files, which is fine for me because I use LibreOffice on the desktop, but might bug MS users. There are plans to add other ODF formats such as spreadsheets and presentations in due course, and being open source there is a completely open API for developers to create their own apps.

Want your Own Cloud?

‘The Cloud’ has been the hot new thing for a few years now, the average home user or small business probably has no idea what this means, but if you use for example Dropbox to sync files across several devices, or send large files to other people, then you’re using ‘The Cloud’. Likewise photo sharing sites and off site backup systems. Earlier this month (Dec 2013) IT security expert Graham Cluely blogged:

“Replacing all instances of the word “cloud” with “somebody else’s computer” might make organisations stop and think about the security implications of cloud computing.”

Certainly made me think. And being interested in free open source software I went searching for a ‘cloud’ I could keep under my control. There are several options:

1. Keep all your data on your own machine(s) on your own property (or properties). That is a different kind of risk, I have several machines, but they are all on the same property so a disaster could easily wipe out the lot.

2. Enter into an agreement with a friend to provide each other with off-site backup facility. It’s feasible but PCs on ADSL don’t make great servers, and you have to trust your friend to run a tight ship and not muck about with your data. It would to difficult to use for synchronizing mobile devices.

3. Use space provided by a webhost company. Of course we’re back to trusting “somebody else’s computer” but at least it’s a server you control.

So option 3 it is then. I already have a domain (this one) hosted by Perfect Hosts so I created a sub-domain on it and install OwnCloud, free open source cloud software. In addition to off site storage OwnCloud has the ability to sync calendars, photos and other data across all your devices.

Installation is a breeze, but then I got stopped in my tracks because to keep things secure OwnCloud expects your webserver to offer https (with an ‘s’ for security on the end) and that relies on you having an SSL certificate, which is expensive. Fortunately Perfect Hosts offer the use of a shared certificate free of charge, but it’s Christmas and it’s a small company so I’ll have to wait. More later…