by December 18, 2012 0 comments



In this article, we will build a personal cloud for file-sharing and PIM sync purposes using OwnCloud. The base used is Knoppix 7.0.4 in an out-of-the-box (OOTB) environment, available in the the PCQuest Oct 2012 DVD.

1. Obtaining packages

In an OOTB installation of Knoppix 7.0.4, no packages other than those already installed will be listed in Synaptic. Hence, you will need to reload package information in Synaptic by using either the menubar or the toolbar button or pressing Ctrl+R, so that you can install packages from online repositories using Synaptic. This step may take a while depending on your internet connection and the state of the repositories at the time of reloading package information. Once done, you will get a list of packages available from the repositories which Knoppix was able to contact. One of the packages will be named OwnCloud. Mark the package for installation. Since we are using Synaptic, it will automatically resolve dependencies on a best-efforts basis. As of the time of writing, OwnCloud 4.0.4 Debian 2-3 was listed in Synaptic, whose installation resulted in the installation and upgradation of several related packages in addition to the removal of MySQL 5.1(both client and server). Once the packages are downloaded by applying the marked changes, the installation will begin. Shortly, you will be presented with a window to set the root password for the MySQL 5.5 server which you will use in conjunction with OwnCloud. Enter your chosen password here and remember it carefully.

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You will confirm the chosen password in the next screen. At a couple of instances, DebConf will also notify you that a configuration file has been modified. On both the occasions, choose to keep the locally installed version. Once the package installation has finished and all necessary services have been started, close the installation dialog and leave Synaptic.

2. Configuring OwnCloud

Launch the browser and point it to http://localhost/owncloud/. We used IceWeasel provided in Knoppix for this task. If everything goes by successfully, you will be greeted with the OwnCloud setup screen, as shown here:

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Here, you will create credentials for the administrator, specify where the data to be shared will be stored on the system and set up connectivity with MySQL. We left the path for the data to be at it’s default value and proceeded by filling in other values.

3. Use your own cloud!

Subject to valid information being entered at the setup screen, the next screen will take you to the upload area, where you can begin to share files and do a host of other activities.

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Files

A maximum file size of 512 MBs is supported by default. Since we were using our own system to access the cloud, a 73.6 MB executable file upload finished within a matter of seconds. A progress bar shows up when you confirm a file to be uploaded and intuitively disappears when the upload finishes.

Music

There is no separate upload function for any special file type such as music/pictures. What OwnCloud does is that it will scan your collection of files and accordingly determine whether any of them are audio/image files. When you upload an audio file (we chose a 1.9 MB MP3 file), it will assign the file a music icon upon successful completion of the upload. Accordingly, when you switch to the music tab, metadata information will be determined (if available) from the file using ID3 tags. However, when we added the file to the playlist and clicked on the play symbol, it did not actually play the MP3 file in the HTML5 player in IceWeasel. We tried uploading a 0.8 MB WAV file. This simply wasn’t detected as a music file inspite of repeatedly rescanning the collection. Next, we uploaded a 230 KB Ogg file. This too had the same result as the WAV.

We later tried using another PC to access OwnCloud over the web and used IE 9 (patched with all updates) to listen to the music. Here it played flawlessly. The HTML5 player supports `Previous`,`Next`,`Play/Pause`, timer and volume(including mute) controls.

Contacts

For adding a new contact, it presents a pretty simple form with the most basic details, each of which can be edited for further information in a more structured manner or/and for alternative values of that field. For the photo, users can upload a photo (again, subject to a default maximum file size of 512 MBs) or choose one already uploaded earlier to OwnCloud. During our tests, clicking on `Add field` did not actually add anything. Users can have multiple address-books and importing from VCF files is supported.

Calendar

An interesting thing to note that while switching to this tab, the browser(not OwnCloud directly) asked for permission to disclose location information. After granting the permission, OwnCloud detected the location and accordingly calculated the timezone for the calendar as Asia/Karachi. Not accurate though but interesting.

Apart from that, the calendar supports the usual day/week/month views, scrolling of months in the calendar view, the `today’ shortcut and support for managing multiple calendars.

Pictures

A 4.4 MB BMP file did not get detected as a picture in this tab. Next we uploaded a 0.99 MB JPG file. This was properly detected as a picture and it’s thumbnail was shown in the Pictures tab.

Configuring the Settings

Users are able to access 5 options under the Settings pop-up menu. They are as follows:

1. Personal

Usage information in terms of storage space, a download link for the sync clients for desktops and mobile phones, options to change the password, e-mail address for password recovery, language choice, WebDAV URL, account export/import, Ampache address, CardDAV syncing addresses, timezone persistence and choice, clock format, first day of the week, and CalDAV syncing addresses are available here. Users are also notified of any updates available for OwnCloud.

2. Users

Management of user groups, individual users as well as assigning quotas for storage take place through this tab.

3. Apps

This acts like a browser’s plugins’ screen. It allows you to manage internal applications such as the built-in PDF viewer and the version control system, each of which can be individually enabled and disabled. It also allows you to add your own app to further extend the functionality.

4. Admin

The administrator can set the maximum file size for uploading (by default 512 MBs), upto 2 GBs. Options for allowing ZIP downloads (and a size limit for uploading ZIP files) can be set here. Version control management and file resharing permissions can be set here.

Administrators can also export the currently running OwnCloud instance from this tab. Logging levels can be set here and the actual logs can also be viewed from this tab.

5. Help

This contains links to documentation, support requests, frequently asked questions,etc.

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