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Goodbye ownCloud, Hello Nextcloud! The Aftermath of Disrupting Open Source Cloud Storage

If you are vaguely familiar with ownCloud, you may have noticed quite a bit of ruckus on the tech blogs back in July when their US business entity was essentially gutted.  The Chief Executive Office and cofounder, Frank Karlitschek, announced he was resigning.  Within a few weeks, most of the core development team followed suit.  This left many long time ownCloud users, such as myself, completely puzzled.  Here we are a few months later and a few questions still linger, but many have been answered.  First, let’s briefly review what the ownCloud platform provides and why this matters.

 

What is ownCloud?

 

ownCloud is an Open Source cloud platform that closely mimics the functionality of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and all the other big guys.  There is an ownCloud server, that runs on a simple LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), and then there’s a client(s).  The client is an application that can be installed on Linux, Windows, OSX, iOS, Android and pretty much everything else.  Each user has a folder full of files that magically stays synchronized on the server and each device the client has the software installed on.  Then users can share files and folders with other users, collaborate, and the list goes on.  Functionality has expanded quite a bit over the years, in way of apps.  Apps have integrated mail, calendar, contacts, music, photo galleries and so much more into the ownCloud ecosystem.  The main difference between ownCloud, and the big guys mentioned earlier, is it’s completely free.  Well, it started out free.  Needless to say, with thousands of developers contributing code, and tens of thousands of installations later, it grew.  So, when did things go sour?

 

What happened?

 

A couple years ago, things started to change.  Instead of the community being the driving force behind development decisions and what direction the project was heading (the core principle of Open Source software) venture capital had another idea.  Less attention was being given to community submitted bugs and feature requests, and a divide was being formed between the community and ownCloud’s business entities, ownCloud GmbH (Germany) and ownCloud Inc (USA).  The business makes money by charging for support, but that started to expand into other areas.  The list of complaints from the Open Source community is pretty long, so I’ll give you the headlines.

 

  • ownCloud developers were ignoring feedback and hoarding functionality for their paying “enterprise” customers.
  • User interfaces were mutilated for many of the core services, such as the contacts and calendar apps.
  • Any attempt to give construction criticism was taken as a personal attack and/or just ignored.
  • Major defects in the code were being released, such as broken updater utilities.
  • ownCloud GmbH/Inc was not sharing future road maps and maintained a veil of secrecy.
  • Lack of real innovation and development of the platform as a whole.

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Secure Apache In No Time, For Free, With an SSL Certificate From Let’s Encrypt!

Recently, I found out about a non-profit organization called Let’s Encrypt, which came into existence earlier this year.  Let’s Encrypt is a publicly trusted certificate authority that issues FREE SSL certificates.  The SSL Certificates are fully functional and extremely easy to request and install.  In fact, using Let’s Encrypt, it only takes about a minute to request and install an SSL certificate on Apache via the Linux command line, using a few simple commands.  If you have a Linux server(s) running any sort of public facing web server, there is no reason not to do this right now.  Here’s how to do it on Ubuntu 16.04 (although it should be the same process on any version of Ubuntu)!

 

Prerequisites

To install an SSL certificate from Let’s encrypt using this guide, you will need a couple things.

  • A server running Ubuntu 16.04 (although this should work on any version of Ubuntu)
  • Apache installed with a domain name(s) that is resolvable to the IP of the server.
    • If you are hosting multiple domains, you will need to be sure you have Virtual Hosts configured that properly specify the ServerName variable.

 

Install the Let’s Encrypt Client

 

To make things easy, there is a client available, based on python, that will do all of the hard work for you.  The package is called python-letsencrypt-apache.  Let’s use Aptitude to install it.

 


#  sudo apt-get update

# sudo apt-get install python-letsencrypt-apache

 

The client is now installed and we can move on to setting up the SSL certificate.

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Configuring ownCloud 9 & Active Directory / LDAP Plugin Successfully

With this step-by-step guide, you will have your ownCloud 9 (and earlier) cloud server authenticating against Active Directory or LDAP correctly in no time!

Introduction

 

Recently, I went through the process of setting up a brand new ownCloud 9.1 server, after my previous ownCloud server had seen upgrades from 6.x all the way up to 8x.  If you’ve used ownCloud that long, you know the abundant changes and improvements that have been made along the way did not come without their growth pains; especially if you delved into encryption.  So, I decided to start fresh.  I use Active Directory to provide a centralized authentication source for everything in my personal “cloud,” so after setting up my new Dropbox clone, the first thing I needed to do was configure the LDAP user and group backend plugin.  I had a lot of problems getting the Active Directory usernames to match the ownCloud usernames, instead of showing a long string off numbers.  It was a lot of confusing UID, UUID, SAMAccountName and DN related confusion.  There aren’t any great guides to keep you from getting a headache, so I decided to make one.

 

Problems with the LDAP user and group backend plugin

 

It’s pretty straight forward to get an ownCloud server authenticating against and Active Directory server, but the biggest problem I’ve seen is the mapped usernames end up being long strings of numbers in ownCloud.  Although the display names are correct in owncloud, the actual username for all AD mapped logins, by default, are a long unique string makes things difficult.  For one, if you need to get to a users ownCloud data folder, there’s no intuitive way of knowing who’s is who’s folder from the command line.

With this step-by-step guide, you will have your ownCloud server authenticating against Active Directory / LDAP, with the following benefits:

 

  • The ownCloud username will match the Active Directory / LDAP username (no long incomprehensible string of numbers)
  • Any user added to a specified group created in Active Directory will automatically have ownCloud login privileges.
  • ownCloud users will be able to login using their username or email address (if specified in AD) interchangeably.

These three pluses make everything very seemless and saves a lot of headaches. So, lets get started.

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How-To Install ownCloud 9 / 9.1 / 9.x on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for the ULTIMATE, Private, Dropbox Clone

Introduction

 

Let’s face it, since the advent of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and the bazillion other cloud-based file synchronization platforms that have came into existence over the past decade, it’s almost a necessity. For the road warrior, using multiple devices, or even the traditional white-collar worker, having access to all of your files no matter what device you’re using is extremely convenient and adds an enormous productivity boost to our lives. One of my biggest concerns with all of the third-party services, however, is privacy and security. Allowing another entity to store my sensitive data, and trusting they will keep in secure, is pretty scary. Thankfully, there are many options to roll-your-own cloud file synchronization and it really doesn’t take much horsepower on the server side. With a low cost VPS (virtual private server), retired computer at home, or even a $25 RaspberryPi, you can easily build your own Dropbox clone that will put you in control of your own data. Today, I’ll walk you through setting up ownCloud 9.1 on Cannocial’s Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. I will be setting up my cloud on a virtual machine running on VMware ESXi, but the process is very similar no matter what hardware platform you choose. This step-by-step guide assumes you have a plain, unmodified, minimum installation of Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS, with only SSH access. If you don’t have SSH running, or don’t want to enable it, console access will work just fine. So, lets get started!

 

Installing Prerequisites (Apache/MySQL/PHP)

 

Go ahead and login to your freshly installed Ubuntu 16.04 server.  Be sure to login with a username that has sudoer privileges.  This can be the username you selected during installation or specified when you provisioned your VPS.  Let’s make sure everything is up-to-date before going any further. We will use Aptitude to do so.

 

#  sudo apt-get update

#  sudo apt-get upgrade -y

 

Now we can jump in to the nitty gritty.  There are a few standard prerequisites needed for ownCloud to run.  Most people refer to this as the LAMP stack (short for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).

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How to Update Proxmox VE When “You Do Not Have A Valid Subscription”

If you have recently dove into the Proxmox VE world, your mind is probably blowing chunks.  Proxmox gives you the unmatched ability to run hypervisor-like Virtual Machines, as well as containers, side by side with High Availability.  It’s an amazing virtualization platform and if you haven’t tried it out yet I highly recommend you do so.  After installing Proxmox 4.2 on one of my lab servers, I found the need to update it and I wasn’t about to pay for an Enterprise Subscription for my home lab.

proxmox-1

How to update Proxmox when “You do not have a valid subscription for this server, please visit www.proxmox.com to get a list of available options” and keep you Proxmox server updated!”

There are a few steps involved and they go something like this:

  1. Disable the enterprise repository that is configured by default
  2. Add the no-subscription repository
  3. Update apt so it knows what can be updated
  4. Use apt to upgrade any packages
  5. Upgrade the entire distribution, using apt, of course

First, lets disable the enterprise repository.  You can’t run apt-get update by default without a subscription, you will get an error.  So, lets comment out that repo so it isn’t checked.  Go ahead and putty / ssh / console into your Proxmox server, and run the following command:


sed -i.bak 's|deb https://enterprise.proxmox.com/debian jessie pve-enterprise|\# deb https://enterprise.proxmox.com/debian jessie pve-enterprise|' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/pve-enterprise.list

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How to Create an iSCSI Target & Extent / Share on FreeNAS 9 (and previous versions)

Today, I’m going to guide you through the process of creating an iSCSI target / extent on FreeNAS-9. This will also work on previous versions of FreeNAS, such as version 7 and 8. There are a few different ways you can go about creating an iSCSI share. You can dedicate an entire device (Hard drive, or RAID array) to the iSCSI share, or you can simply create a Volume, and create multiple iSCSI shares and each is simply a file on the volume. This approach works well because you can use part of a volume as an NFS share, part of it as a CIFS share for Windows, and if you want a few separate iSCSI targets you can just create a single file for each. Lets get started.

How to create an iSCSI Target / Share on FreeNAS

 

First, we need to add a volume using your hard drive or RAID array that is connected to your FreeNAS server. If you have already done this, you can skip this step.  Let’s get started with the rest.

Log into your FreeNAS web interface, and go to Storage > Volumes > Volume Manager.  Fill in a volume name (make sure it starts with a letter, and NOT a number, otherwise you will get an error).  Add one or more of your Available Disks (by clicking the + sign).  Select a RAID type if you wish to do so.  In my case, I’m using hardware RAID, so I will leave the default (single drive stripe, IE, JBOD).  Now click Add Volume.

 

freenas-1

 

Now that we have added a volume, we can begin the process of creating an iSCSI share.  This process required multiple steps, in the following order:

  1. Add a Portal
  2. Add an Initiator
  3. Add a Target
  4. Create an Extent (the file that corrasponds to the iSCSI share)
  5. Link the Target and the Extent together
  6. Start the iSCSI service

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FreeNAS 9 Error When Adding Volume – You must specify a new volume name…..

I’ve had quite a few friends and colleagues run into a problem trying to create a volume on FreeNAS.  This applies to FreeNAS 9, as well as older versions such as 8.  The error they get when clicking “Add Volume” is this:

“You must specify a new volume name or select an existing ZFS volume to append a virtual device.”

and under that:

“The volume name must start with letters and may include numbers, “-“, “_” and “.” “

Here is a screenshot:

 

freenas-error-1

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