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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 16 Feb 2012

I just installed ownCloud: It's like my own, wholly controlled version of Google Docs (without the spying) and Dropbox (without the cost)

I didn't think installing ownCloud would be so easy, but it was.

My continuing reliance on Google Docs, which is cheerfully offered up for free in exchange for Google's searching through your files and marketing to you based on what it finds, plus the plethora of similar privacy-sapping services, has me very interested in personal-cloud services such as ownCloud and the early-days Freedom Box project. The Freedom Box will happen eventually.

OwnCloud is here now, and while there is certainly a commercial component to the whole thing, it is basically a free software project with code that anybody can download and use.

And so I did.


I downloaded the software from ownCloud, uploaded it to the server, created a database, did a quick setup, enabled WebDAV on my local machine to access the files via my native file manager (Nautilus in GNOME in Debian Squeeze, in case you are wondering) and was off to the races.

What exactly is ownCloud?

Read the project's own description, or my own:

OwnCloud is a relatively new service that aims to leverage the power of free software to bring "cloud-like" services to users without using an actual cloud, instead using your own server or shared-hosting space.

Again, it's not really a cloud service, but a service that does things we think of when we think of what cloud services do. Do you follow me?

OwnCloud is basically an application that runs on a web server and allows users to manage and access documents in much the same way as they can do with proprietary services such as Google Docs and Dropbox. Except that you install it, you run it, and nobody else controls it but you.

Sweet? Yes.

Services that ownCloud offers include:

  • Online file manager to access and edit many file formats (especially plain-text files, which is great for coders), store and play music, view photos and documents

  • WebDAV interface to allow access to files via the native file managers in Linux/Unix, Windows and Macintosh computers

  • Apps on the way for iPhone and Android to allow access to files, with the proprietary WebDAV Navigator available now.

  • Calendars, contacts, photo albums

  • and more on the way -- with extensions to be developed by the community -- and even you -- with PHP, HTML and Javascript

I've heard about this, seen a few of my online friends install it, and I just had to do it myself.

The instructions aren't terrible, and despite a few errors output to the screen after the initial setup, everything works fine (and I have the WebDAV set up on my laptop, which is accessing my ownCloud files with no trouble).

What attracts me to this project -- besides my wanting this kind of service -- is that it's available now and works now. And it can only get better.

Problems? Well, there's security. I need to look into setting this up with an encrypted connection. That's the weak link at the moment.

More on ownCloud: Here is an interview with ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek from Muktware.

And a video: