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My personal little “cloud” May 24, 2011

Posted by CK in Internet, Productivity, Software.
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Here it is, and it works perfect:

  • You will need a VPS or a home server. I’m using the wonderful, fan-less Shuttle XS35GT with a small SSD, as it is also my HTPC
  • A Linux distribution. I very highly recommend Mint 10 if you’re using the XS35GT so that you get a working audio + wireless and a stable XBMC, otherwise you may wish to use an LTS release like Ubuntu 10.04 or Mint 9.
  • An installation of eGroupware, to use its addressbook and calendar modules with its GroupDAV and SyncML synchronization facilities. You can easily install eGroupware using the deb repository provided on the project’s site.
  • Thunderbird, Lightning and the SOGo connector to support GroupDAV. Make sure you don’t use the “SOGo Lightning” extension; at least for me it didn’t work. Then subscribe Lightning to the eGroupware calendar and addressbook. Don’t bother with TODO items, unless a flat list is your thing.
  • A SyncML application to synchronize your phones. My Nokia E71 comes installed with one, while on an Android you can use the wonderful Synthesis client. Synthesis offers clients for additional platforms, but I only tried the one for Android.
  • The amazing Tracks application for GTD. It takes some effort to install, but it is totally worth it. You can also subscribe Lightning to various views of Tracks exported calendars. I’ve subscribed only to the one for due items, so that they appear with deadlines in my calendar. There are also two mobile applications to sync with Tracks, one for the iOS and one for the Android. Unfortunately the latter doesn’t work yet with Tracks 2.0, but it looks like it’s only a matter of time before it does.
  • …and, finally, Mindtouch Core (DekiWiki) as my data sink. There’s also a for-pay version, but I’m using the free/open-source one, which is fine. It’s also installed via a deb repository. I guess others may prefer some other platform, but for me Deki is perfect.

Then, your router set to post its address to DynDNS/No-IP or a similar service, and some CNAMEs in your domain to point to the hostname you have chosen (or simply the address of your VPS). All three services (Mindtouch, Tracks, eGroupware) are powered by Apache2, on virtual servers over HTTPS.

The data is yours!

PS: Special thanks to Yannis for suggesting to use eGroupware instead of SOGo+Funambol. A great improvement, indeed.
PPS: I only accept IaaS to fall under the term “cloud computing”, hence the quotes in the title.

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Comments»

1. Looking for VPS provider « Logos of Crafts - June 22, 2011

[…] home server project is more or less over, following a power outage today. I’d be very willing to keep it always […]

2. Yannis - January 2, 2012

Regarding the thorny issue of keeping updated the address-book and the calendar from different OSes and platforms, we have to admit that unfortunately the non-bundled solutions suffer.

As you are aware, the SOGO connector plug-in, unfortunately, did not catch-up with thunderbird’s aggressive development cycles. Hence, it is not available in version 8 & 9 of the famous MUA. There are many references out there and is some of them, it is mentioned that thunderbird’s address book may eventually incorporate some WebDAV/CardDAV functionality in future releases (let’s cross our fingers).

For me downgrading thunderbird was not an acceptable solution, neither installing an alternative one. So, I decided to reconsider my alternatives. One of them was installing Zimbra 6.0 to my FreeBSD. Even-though it compiled successfully some minor issues with the integrated LDAP prevented my from using it. So, I tried installing ZCS version 7.0 in a fresh Ubuntu installation. Things were straight forward. A simple “apt-get install” worked like a charm. The environment is fancy, friendly and scales very well. I was impressed.

On the other side of the river, when it comes to the desktop integration, gnome’s PIM utility “evolution” has *native* support for both CardDAV/CalDAV, which means that syncing works out of the box. Same applies more or less with KDE’s utils even though I had some minor issues with, what else, akonadi. Last but not least, thunderbird has an updated address book plugin and lightning support CalDAV. Same applies for OSX and iOS. Both of them have embedded the required functionality, so if you own an iPhone you don’t have to mess with third-party utilities. A quick search revealed that many applications also exist for android phones. There are also references for Nokia phones (http://wiki.zimbra.com/wiki/Nokia_E-Series) but I don’t own one so I cannot confirm anything.

Bad news left for the epilogue, ZCS relies on a bunch of packages, like openldap, apache etc, which are installed by the suite in their own ecosystem. That makes the co-existance of another apache instance quite complicated. I am not saying it is impossible but it needs a little of a tweak to make it work or you can simply decide to use other ports for apache.

Concluding, I have to admit that I am thinking to re-design my server and migrate to ZCS 🙂


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