ownCloud as an alternative to Dropbox and friends

Dropbox, GDrive and all the rest of the cloud-hosters have a nice business model and it seems to work for them. On the other hand, Dropbox has had more than it’s fair share of security issues and they did not seem to be on top of things at all times.  Besides that, by using those services, you load private and sensitive data to servers (mostly) in the US. That leaves some of us with an uneasy feeling.

So, as usual, there is an alternative for linux: ownCloud has been started in 2010 by KDE developer Frank Karlitschek and is at stable version 4.0.7 right now, which is to be found in the Debian unstable repository. ownCloud is written in PHP and JavaScript and makes use of  a {sqlite,mysql,postgresql}-database. There is a webcilent, which makes it usable on all pattforms, including  Android and iPhone. There is also integration into the desktop (at least for KDE with Dolphin) with the owncloud-client. The developement of ownCloud was at times a bit hasty for my taste, the release of ownCloud 4 being a bit premature for sure So, with 4.04 in wheezy and 4.07 in sid, i thought, i’d give the latter a fair beating on the weekend. There is also 4.5.x as git version for the very brave. As I wanted to check if i could use ownCloud productively for myself at this point, I settled for the 4.0.7.

The V-Server I am using for this adventure runs wheezy. So I needed to expand the sources to sid and installed owncloud and owncloud-sqlite from there. Opening the web-interface and doing some configuring was a matter of minutes. The only thing that needed to be manualy done was some changes to /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini. Php has an upload limit of 2 MByte as default. So that needs to be changed and is documented well, like the rest of the ownCloud features. Just don’t forget to restart apache afterwards.

On my workstation at home i had to add 2 sources as well to be able to install owncloud-client. One was a line for squeeze in a sid environment, which is normaly not a sane idea. But as it is only needed for libssl0.9.8, which works fine with libc6 from sid and has no other dependencies to take care of, this is fine for this case. Other than that: kids, don’t do this at home ;). The other line added to my sources was one from Suse, because Debian does not ship owncloud-client yet. The needed line is:

deb http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/isv:ownCloud:community/Debian_6.0/ /

After installing libssl0.9.8 explicitely from stable, you can then install csync and owncloud-client. With owncloud-client you can set up syncing within your file-manager (only tested with dolphin so far).

After everything (upload, download,syncing, sharing) worked like a charme, I started to integrate my local and google calendars and my adressbooks from kontact using akonadi and Webdav. Five minutes later I was setting up ampache on my Droid, so ownCloud can stream music to the smartphone. Amarok can also be talked into streaming music from your cloud.  All this worked in a matter of minutes without much hassle.There is other features I have not tested yet, like LDAP integration.

As you probably sensed by now, I had a lot of fun and really like ownCloud a lot and will use it productively instead of Dropbox. Of course there is room for improvement in such a young project. The developers integrated too much too fast and now the bugtracker is flowing over. Issues I ran into are a slow webclient that freezes at times (only tested with Chromium so far) and owncloud-client showing false errors and so blocking sync. These things are easy to workaround, but nonetheless annoying and will hopefuly be fixed for 0.5.

My conclusion is: taking your cloud needs into your own hands is well spent time. ownCloud will go a long way and is here to stay. If this got you interested, please have a look at the features and the documentation.

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