Beside my Drupal work at artus.com I attended the Mobile Users FFM monthly meeting on Wednesday. The group exists since 13 years and it started as the “Palm user group, Frankfurt”. Do you remember Palm? During the last 13 years the world changed and it was interesting for me me to hear stories about different types of smartphones, smartwatches, phone contracts and gadget like the Yota Phone 2.
A member of the group (@android_oma) is developing an interesting Drupal/Android/open data project. The basic idea is to collect photos from German railway stations (bike stations, elevators, facilities inside and outside of railway stations). She pulls open data from the German Deutsche Bahn with longitude, latitude and unique id numbers of German railway stations. These data should be imported/synced to a Drupal site (http://www.deutschlands-bahnhoefe.de).
With an already existing Android App, people can see railway stations where photos are missing. So far the project is in early stage, the app is not in the app store but available via in this Google+ group.
Later on the app should post the photos directly to the Drupal website by using web services. So far people are just tweeting photos (it’s easy to participate ) (https://twitter.com/hashtag/bahnhofsfotos. Railway fans are unique, so the project is getting attention and they are planning an international version starting with Switzerland.
As promised in the first blog post about the Nextcloud App Ecosystem, here comes the second one about all the official Nextcloud Apps that are disabled by default.
To understand the different types of apps better, I would categorize them as following so far:
Official Nextcloud app:
A Nextcloud app is called official when it’s developed/maintained by Nextcloud GmbH and shipped in the Nextcloud server package. Some official apps are enabled.
Approved Nextcloud app
A Nextcloud App is called approved when it comes from a third party entity and is shipped in the Nextcloud server package.
Apps from the Nextcloud app store.
In Nextcloud version 11, an app store will be integrated. I don’t know yet how these apps will be called in the future.
This blog post covers official Nextcloud apps which are disabled by default:
Default encryption module
External storage support
External user support
File access control
Files automated tagging
LDAP user and group backend
If you just read the names and you are not familiar with the Nextcloud project you might struggling to understand what these apps are for, why they are not enabled and whether it is a good or a bad idea to enable them. I’ll go through these apps, provide a short description and, if possible a common use case and some screenshots.
Default encryption module
I’m not sure why this package is called a module, it should be called an app, an official app!
As you may assume this app is about security. After enabling the app and server-side encryption in the administration settings, all your new uploaded files will be encrypted based on AES 256 keys (How secure are AES-256 encrypted files?), the app won’t touch existing files. Attention: It is not possible to disable the encryption again and switch back to an unencrypted system!
Please read the documentation to know all implications before you decide to enable server-side encryption.
This app allows an administrator to add links in the Nextcloud web interface apps menu that points to an external website. For a user, the external site appears in an iframe as if it’s part of the Nextcoud installation.
External storage support
The external storage support app enables administrators to configure connections to external storage providers (FTP , Amazon S3, SWIFT object stores, Google Drive, Dropbox, other Nextcloud servers, WebDAV servers, and more). Administrators can choose which types of storage to enable and can mount these storage locations for a user, a group, or the entire system. The screenshot shows an example with external storage via SFTP.
Users will see a new folder appearing in their root Nextcloud directory, which they can access and use it like any other Nextcloud folder.
External user support
This app authenticates user login against FTP, IMAP or SMB. Passwords are not stored locally and authentication always happens against the remote server. There is no graphical user interface for configuration. You have to add parameters to the configuration file config.php.
Have a look at the documentation.
File access control
This app controls the access to files. It can be used e.g. in relationship with the two factor authentication app (an approved app – TOTP TwoFactor (Google Authenticator)) because it’s necessary to protect the keys. I’ll cover this topic in a separate blog post.
Meanwhile, have a look at Joas blog post on Nextcloud.com – File Access Control – A firewall for your private files in Nextcloud.
Files automated tagging
The app automatically assigns tags to newly uploaded files based on conditions. Combined with Files Access Control App and Retention App it’s possible to create workflows like
converting document file types to PDF upon upload by members of a specified group
emailing files put in a specified folder with a given tag to a given mail address.
The official but not enabled apps are often covering special use cases like the whole authentication and workflow handling. Even if these are not “main stream use cases” it’s important and crucial to know that these solutions exist for using Nextcloud efficiently in your company!
tl;dr: The Nextcloud 10 server package comes with several official apps that are not all enabled by default but awesome!
Last Saturday at Nextcloud conference in Berlin the Nextcloud Box was announced. Frank said it’s a part of his promise/desire to make the world a better place by bringing your data home.
How can the world be a better place with Nextcloud Box?
What is Nextcloud Box?
Nextcloud Box is a project between Western Digital Labs, Ubuntu/Canonical and Nextcloud GmbH. It gives you the possibility to store your data (files, documents, photos, calendars, notes, newsfeed, contacts, music files, video files and everything the can be stored in a file) in your own Nextcloud Box. There is no need anymore to upload your data to proprietary cloud services like Dropbox, Google Cloud, Microsoft Cloud, Apple Cloud, Amazon Cloud, and many other! It will be even possible in the next release to make encrypted phone calls via your Nextcloud Box.
The complete Nextcloud Box contains a hard disk, an operating system, and open source software:
a hard disk from Western Digital (1TB = a lot for me)
a Raspberry Pi computer (at the moment model 2). The Raspberry Pi is so far not included in the box you can buy.
a 4GB storage card with a preinstalled Linux System (Snappy Ubuntu Core)
the Nextcloud software (Version 9.53)
a software environment that connects the box automatically to your (local) network via ethernet cable and offers the Nextcloud services to all users.
A complete Nextcloud Box looks like this and costs 70 Euro in Europe (buy here).
Why is it sold without the Raspberry Pi?
Nextcloud box should be as open as possible so the partners decided for the start not to deliver the Raspberry Pi. If you already own one you can connect your Raspberry Pi 2 to the box. There is a screw driver, four screws, all necessary connection cables and a power supply in the box. If not, you have to buy it somewhere. Frank announced that there are working on a possibility to sell complete packages in the future.
Putting everything together is easy and doable for everyone. If you search for the card slot at the Raspberry Pi – It’s a bit hidden “below” it and luckily it’s not possible to insert the card in the wrong way.
This it how it looks if everything is connected
The last task is to close the box with the cover and your done.
How to install Nextcloud Box
Well, just connect it to your network, provide electricity and wait 8-10 minutes. Open your browser and point to http://ubuntu-standard.local. The start screen asks to set a user name and a password for the administrator account. Enter na nice name and secure password and click the Finish setup button.
That’s it! Nextcloud Box is ready to use and lots like this:
It works of course too on iOS and Android devices.
Allow access from outside your home and become a cloud hoster
If you have a fairly fast internet connection at home and a possibility to configure your router, you can enable the access to your Nextcloud Box from outside of your home. E.g. here in France it’s possible to get your own IP-address for free (free.fr). As this IP-address is static it’s possible to connect it to a domain name (mydomainname.tld) and you suddenly become a cloud hosting entity.
Why is Nextcloud Box important?
It’s another try to help people to understand how easy it is to store your own data at home or in your own company in an environment as open as possible. Even the plan of the box is available for free, so that you are able to start your own project!
There is no cloud, just other people’s computer!
The familiar you become with your own data, the better it will be for the world too!
At Nextcloud conference 50 Nextcloud boxes were available.
As you may have noticed I attended the Nextcloud Hackweek last week (day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5). I decided to help out with documentation in Github and I did a few little changes. The documentation ist separated into an Admin-, a User and a Developer Manual. I struggled a bit with the organisation of everything on Github (master, stable10, stable9) but step by step I’ll manage. What confuses me most was the fact that I personally used ownCloud/Nextcloud as a file syncing mechanism like Dropbox. Attending the hackweek I noticed that Nextcloud is and will become so much more.
I want to give a few examples
upload your music and listen to it on your mobile or at home (like in iTunes)
Edit and share your documents (like Google docs)
upload photos, that you have taken with your mobile automatically and manage and share them (like Flickr)
be a part of a federation of Nextcloud users. What is federation and why is it useful? (This is really unique and important)
run it on your server at home (on a Raspberry Pi or a MacMini or whatever)
use it as your own telephone provider (with the Spreed integration)
store and sync all your contacts and calendars via Nextcloud (like iCloud)
read your emails in Nextcloud (via mail app)
use nextcloud as your news aggregator (like google reader)
offer all this features to your friends or your company (because you can )
and of course … sync all your documents between your mobile and your desktop (like Dropbox)
This is just a small list of features that is interesting for me as a consumer. But I learned from the past:
If something is interesting for me, there are usually millions of consumers outside that find it interesting too!
My plan is to try out the feature list by myself, describe my experiences in my blog, contribute to the documentation (User, Admin, Developer) and spread the word about Nextcloud in general.
It would be also nice to have more localised documentation in German, French and other languages.
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