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…

New PC

Finally built myself a new desktop PC. The idea came about when I reviewed Mac4Lin, such a cool looking operating system really doesn’t belong on a beige box and CRT screen. So here it is…


Unfortunately the BenQ V2400 eco monitor is only a review model on loan, it’s going back tomorrow.

Mini 9 -intosh!

I just got a new toy, a refurbed Dell Mini 9 for £164 from NDC. It was supposed to come with Linux, but due to a cock up arrived with WinXP installed. NDC offered to take it back but I was too anxious to play with it, so I installed the latest Ubuntu (9.04) and Mac4Lin. I’ve blogged about Mac4Lin before here, but I’m amazed how well it runs on a lttle netbook and how usable it is.

Mini 9-intosh (& an espresso)
Mini 9-intosh (& an espresso)

The Mini 9 seems robust, the keyboard is surprisingly usable with decent sized alpha-numeric keys, though some of the others such as Tab, Enter, Back etc are fiddly. The middle row of letters are used with a Fn key for F1, F2 etc. WiFi works with no hassle at all and the graphics system runs Compiz so you can have wobbly windows and essentially for Mac4Lin, the AWN dock. Built-in webcam works too, though strangely there is no built-in mic and I’m struggling at the moment to use an external one with Skype…