Monday, August 6, 2012


Go into the "cloud", use the "cloud", harness the power of the "cloud", "cloud" computing, "cloud" this, "cloud" that... blah blah blah. Of course, the word has some meaning, but it has been so abused, misused and used to confuse that I now find it irksome. But there are more tangible problems with the ideas behind it. (I'll stop using "scare" quotes now.)

The obvious problem with storing your data in the cloud is that you don't know where it is or who can see it. Another problem is that if you use software that is in the cloud, for example gmail, then you have zero control over changes to that software. If google decides to update gmail, you will be forced to switch to the new version at some point whether you want to or not.

I could live - and do live - with these and other drawbacks of the cloud, but there is one other problem that troubles me more. I rely on google for mail, contacts, calendar, documents, web sites, my phone, this blog... Although I have no particular problem with Google at the moment, it does not sit well with me to have so many eggs in one monopolist's basket.

So when I first came across ownCloud, I was immediately attracted to the idea. ownCloud is software you can install on your own webserver and you can control how your data is stored and accessed and since the software is Free and Open Source (under the AGPL license), you have as much control over it as you could wish for.

Of course, not everyone has the time, inclination, knowledge or money to run their own web server, but then perhaps there is a web-skilled friend you might trust, or you could choose to use a commercial provider who is offering a pre-installed set up for you. The project has a company ( that lives in symbiosis with the open source community (

So far I've tried out the file sharing, music, calendar, contacts and gallery aspects of owncloud and experimented accessing it from my android phone. My server is in my house running on a low-power linutop 2. It's not fast, but fast enough for my purposes just now. I will write another post with more technical aspects.

Once I've finished a bit more fettling, perhaps I will invite some friends into my ownCloud, but will they trust me with their precious data?

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