Mar 31

OwnCloudIntroduction

This post is about OwnCloud 6.x which seems finally mature enough to replace most of my current workarounds in a single fine solution.

old Workaround

  • Davical as calendar solution, supports CalDAV and uses PHP (comes with a webfrontend) with postgres as backend database. Been a fine solution so far, but looks like the project got somewhat abandoned.. sometimes the homepage wasn’t even reachable anymore for me. I’ve had quite some issues getting it to work properly on iOS devices after iOS 7.x became available. I found some 3rd party workaround, that fixed some database structure. There was also some issue on OSX iCal, whenever you added an item, it didn’t seem to stick. Only after you manually triggered a fresh sync before adding a new item, it seemed to work. This was one of the hassle’s which made me look for an alternative. As for sharing, my wife simply added my account as well to see my appointments.davical permissions
  • Contacts in OSX. I’ve been using the standard iTunes SYNC with iOS devices (iPhone/iPad) to sync my contacts and groups. If you keep your contacts up2date with pictures and stuff, you will also see the picture of the caller right away. This was a feature i wanted to keep. I haven’t found / or searched long enough, for a replacement to make this available remotely without the need to sync. Sharing more or less didn’t happen. Everyone’s keeping their own contacts up2date.
  • 1Password in OSX. I’ve been using 1password for quite some time but i am not a friend of sync solutions such as dropbox. While AgileBits is telling you all the time, your 1password files are secure and it requires billions of years to crack them, i have my doubts. Only because it is not crackable today, it doesn’t mean some major super duper quantum computer can’t crack it tomorrow. Keeping your files to yourself in the first place, sort of avoids this problem. Even though, they can probably hack everything by then anyways. Anyway, 1password suppors WiFi-Sync, so i used that one to sync my stuff between OSX and iOS devices. It’s a little bothersome, since you have to open the applications everywhere, make sure they are on the same wifi network and even open some special submenu on OSX these days.. not very comfortable .. making the sync a real “sunday morning” task instead of having it just happening in the background. By this time my Windows Gaming Box was not involved in the process, since WiFi sync was not available here.
  • Files. AFP/Samba. For simple file sharing, i’ve been using AFP and/or SAMBA. Remotely connect via VPN.
  • Bookmark Management. I don’t like to store my bookmarks on 3rd party pages. I think bookmarks are a very personal thing. Like what type of books you read. Telling a stranger much about you, your personality.. maybe beliefs, religion, policitical views etc. I’d like to decide on my own, with whom i want to share this with. So my bookmark management was the mozilla weave server. You may use theirs or install your own weave server, which i did. The application depends on a python environment, combined with some database backend (mysql, sqllite). Looking into the database structure, everything seems properly encrypted. (only garbled blobs there). This behind an apache SSL Proxy. Unfortunately this works only with firefox, even though with all OS versions of firefox. I haven’t found a proper way to use this on Safari or Chrome without using some 3rd party website again.firefox sync

new ownCloud era

  • OwnCloud is a solution for all problems above.
  • CalDAV Support. In OwnCloud you get a fine calendar solution with support for multiple calendars and the ability to share them to other OwnCloud Users (with fine grained permissions) or public readonly links.
    • Works perfectly on iOS devices, OSX iCal. Simply add the link, OSX will take care about the rest and show you all calendars automatically your User is supposed to see.
  • CardDAV Support. With OwnCloud you can keep track of all your contacts, with extra fields, pictures etc. You can also have multiple adressbooks (for example corporate, private) and can share them to other OwnCloud users. They will automatically see your adressbooks in their contacts webpage.
    • iOS devices work just fine. They will also show you all adressbooks that have been shared to you. Adding / Updating entries, no problem. You can even update the pictures right from your iPhone.
    • Mac OSX 10.8 / 10.9 ..  here comes the downside, but Apple is to blame. It doesn’t work properly here. Only a single adressbook is shown to you no matter how much adressbooks you have or even if you explicitely asked for a special adressbook via URL (eg. /USERNAME/adressbookname). This includes shared ones. I’ve submitted some feedback on the apple webpage, since obviously the code in the iOS versions was already there and just have to be ported back to OSX.
    • Since the Contacts App in OSX didn’t work properly, i’ve switched to Thunderbird. Here you have to install the “Inverse SoGo Connector” extension in order to use CardDAV adressbooks. After that is pretty much just adding a “remote adressbook”, one by one for each adressbook you want to see. Thunderbird will allow you to choose a default adressbook. One downside here i haven’t quite figured out yet, it seems to ask for your owncloud credentials every time you start it, but it doesn’t seem to ask for it if you just wakeup your MacBook. Here it just fails and you have to restart the app. Maybe there is a workaround i just don’t know yet.
  • Filesharing & Sync. OwnCloud provides a small sync application for almost all Operating Systems (OSX; Linux; Windows, iOS, Android) to access the storage part of their suite. The tool on osx/windows side i’ve tested, simply asks for your credentials and server address, lets you pick a local and a remote directory and keeps them in sync. I picked a single extra directory, so it doesn’t download everything. Everything for example, includes all directories people have shared to you. These directories show up in some special “shared” directory in the root of your “filesystem”.owncloud win
  • 1password. With the sync tool from above, you can simply use 1passwords “synchronization with folder” option and pick your OwnCloud local folder. It will sync all items automatically. My Windows 1password installation could pick that newly created 1password file (its actually a directory) right away and use it. Adding an item on Mac 1password triggered a 1password sync, followed by an owncloud sync UP to the owncloud server, followed by an owncloud sync DOWN to the windows installation, making it kind of instantly available to the windows 1password installation. Finally a working sync between Windows and OSX without a 3rd party.1password win
  • bookmark management. Some form of weave service can be installed as plugin into OwnCloud. Switching from weave to OwnCloud worked right away since switching the old service off in firefox, doesn’t delete any bookmarks. So i disabled the old sync and setup a new one. You need to create a new account and choose your owncloud installation. Everything you need, such as the exact URL you can find in the personal area of your OwnCloud. One more thing tho, once you setup everything, you may want to check on the new “recovery key” in firefox and store it somewhere safe (maybe in 1password?).

Since this is a pretty new installation, i cannot say much about stability but for now it makes a good impression on me so far.

Update:

  • If you run your owncloud installation behind a Pound Proxy, you may need to patch that one so it allows the PATCH http method.

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