SuttaCentral

Nextcloud is very helpful, do SC volunteers have need of a free, hosted account?

nextcloud
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#1

Hello SC volunteers, especially @Sujato and @Vimala. I find it inspiring, all the hard work you’re pouring into SC and discourse.SC. This is a follow-up message (and offer) to those outstanding individuals mentioned in this previous post.

The following is in the spirit of giving (and also doing my part to express the serious unsuitableness of patronizing the likes of Google, Apple, Dropbox, etc):

Motivation: It’s been my experience that Nextcloud 13 works really well. While there are free-for-use Nextcloud servers that you could get an account on, I would say, don’t bother, as they probably will have very poor service (with way too many free-loading users bogging the servers down).

Back-story: Over the last month or two, I’ve set up and tested two Nextcloud servers for myself (and made testing accounts for a couple of geek friends, who helped with the testing). The first one was on a Raspberry Pi (a cheap initial “investment”), just to learn and test how it worked (which took a few days of casual tinkering). Then once I was confident it worked well (and it did), I set up a more serious Nextcloud server on a friend’s QNAP storage appliance (which again took a few days worth of casual tinkering), where I now keep my bookmarks, contacts, files, photos (with “Gallery”), calendar, tasks, etc.

Virtually all of these things are highly sharable both with fellow Nextcloud users, and with the internet at large (through generated links which one can cut and paste). “Nextcloud Talk” is also a nice App, which is much like having your own private Skype server, however one should use the video sparingly; voice is much lower bandwidth.

My laptop (Gnome 3.28 desktop, which has native Nextcloud support) and smartphone (Android) both sync to this Nextcloud server very nicely (which was the original motivation behind this all). The setup was as straightforward as I could have asked it to be (but don’t expect it to be as dead-simple as signing up for a Gmail address). Yes, it’s somewhat sophisticated, however I have yet to find any actual bugs after a good month’s usage. For real! Nextcloud 13 is very stable, as it’s reputed to be.

The Offer: I’m considering making a 3rd Nextcloud server on a proper hosted server (in a datacenter, which are relatively cheap to rent these days), using rightfully acquired funding I can possibly scrounge up from an unnamed layperson.

This kind of a server could host, say, 25 or 30 users (maybe more). I think that’s roughly how many people have contributed to SC (and I’m not talking about discourse.SC posters here, but the people actually mentioned here).

The server would have proper things like SSL encryption (via “Let’s Encrypt”), a memorable DNS name, however no backups, and no guarantee of pristinely-uninterrupted service (I would troubleshoot it when and only when I could spare the time to maintain it, should the occasional problem arise. I’ll be losing zero hours of sleep worrying about this server). Use at your own risk, however I expect it will be up virtually all the time. Users will be expected to sync (their files, and photos) and export their contacts and bookmarks, which act as their own backups (which is easy to do).

I’ll only be installing the Nextcloud “Apps” mentioned above (all being “official” Nextcloud Apps, which are going to be the most stable, meaning “low maintenance for me”), namely bookmarks, contacts, files, photos (with “Gallery”), calendar, tasks, and Nextcloud Talk (and this last one I might remove if all the monthly server bandwidth gets used up).

Each user would get 2GB of storage (for Bhikkhus/Bhikkhunis who have permission if they are still Nissaya, plus Samaneras/Samaneris with similar permission). If you’re a layperson, sorry, only 1.5GB of storage.

So, please talk me into this, or talk me out of this as you will. You have one week to speak up, starting now. This is a potential gift to all SC volunteers, but you have to want it, or I won’t do it. At least 10 volunteers must show interest in actually using this (posting below), to convince me this is worth my time.

If I set it up, usernames and passwords will be given to you using the private messaging facility of this message board. You need never tell me your email address, and frankly I don’t really want to know it.

If you decide you would like to try this, you need to be the sort of person who is self-motivated to figure out how to get your native-Nextcloud apps to connect to the Nextcloud server (although you can just access everthing through your web browser, which is much simpler, but then you get no offline use, which would still work for things like contacts, bookmarks, tasks, and calendars, should the server go down temporarily).

I’m not looking to do much in the way of tech support at all (however I can post screenshots of what working configs look like). You’ll need to be willing to do web searches to find your answers, or talk to each each other, if you get stuck.

This is a post which is intended to guage interest. Nothing has actually happened yet. Regardless of outcome, I’ll be using my own personal Nextcloud server (the second one I set up) all the same, so if this idea turns out to be not a good one, oh well, nobody loses anything to speak of.

Disclaimers, and Caveats: Anyone who would use the server for activities deemed unreasonable, unsuitable, and unbecoming would have their account suspended or removed, at my discretion (and this would be quite similar to how SC gets moderated). Yes, I would be able to see what content you might store (although I don’t intend to look), so please keep it civilized! That little disclaimer pretty much goes without saying. Note that it’s totally possible to have simultaneous accounts on more than one Nextcloud server. You could always migrate to a future Nextcloud server somewhere else, if you wouldn’t want to use my (hypothetical) server any longer.

If you post below, and you aren’t an actual SC volunteer mentioned here (not even being so much as a translator), then your opinion will probably count for very little, as you are not really any sort of “stakeholder” in this context. No offense, but I would ask you to please remain silent. It is the actual SC volunteers, whom I feel deserve a special gift, that I’m addressing here.

In a week, I’ll post wether this will go ahead or not.


Gratitude for all devops work on SC
#2

Hello Bhante

The only opinion I wanted to post is that this is a kind and generous offer. And a big Thank You :pray: for Birken's Theravada Buddhist Dhamma Talk Master List which is a wonderful resource. :heart:


#3

Thanks Ven, this is very kind, but as for me, I don’t think I’d have a use for it.


#4

The discourse.SC moderators and and SC developers can all have Nextcloud accounts, if you’d like. I’ve verfied that at least one years’ funding is available.


#5

I’ve just found an alternate hosting plan that costs slightly more, but includes much more storage and bandwidth (everyone would get about 3 or 4 GB of storage). If enough volunteers/monks/nuns opt in, I’ll go with that plan. Like more than just 10 people. Say, 12 people minimum to make that plan feel worth it.

My offer now extends to all Theravada monks and nuns who have their independance, don’t handle money, and are tech-savvy enough that they won’t need much help to get started (and some screenshots and summarized instructions would be enough).


#6

Here’s the nickel tour of a few of the common features I use in Nextcloud. (I’m not showing my contacts, and bookmarks, calendar and tasks, for privacy reasons).

Setup of a Nextcloud account in Gnome Settings:

You simply toggle which features of your Nextcloud account you’d like your native Gnome apps to utilize (Evolution email client, Calendar, and File Browser):

Screenshot%20from%202018-04-09%2009-09-25

In the File browser (shown in the dark window at the bottom), a new “file share” for the Nextcloud account gets automatically created (allowing easy file management in and out of the Nextcloud server, allowing operating on many files and folders simultaneously)! Note how the files and folders shown there are identical to browsing the files in the web browser (the white window above):


#7

Which webhosts are you considering?


#8

DigitalOcean and Dreamhost. I have experience with Dreamhost, and trust them (a couple of monastery websites I set up in the past are hosted there), however geeks I trust also say DigitalOcean is good.

There’s a good chance this hosting will be on US soil (not my favorite), however I am going for cheapness here, since this is donation money (with still decent tech support, and a known reputation).

I’m expecting that users will draw no undue attention to themselves (from various authorities) as they would use this. If they stick to even slightly Buddhist, clean content, then I don’t see how there could be any problem.

SSL encryption, plus an assurance that no private data would be harvested by myself (an offer you’ll never get from the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.), is what I’m offering here.

I won’t be turning on the new, beta-quality Cryptomator feature of Nextcloud yet. I’ll wait until that feature is considered stable before trying it.


#9

What’s wrong with US soil? We still have the 4th amendment though I’m not sure for how much longer.

Not sure the size you’d be looking at, but I’ve liked Vultr (almost the same as DigitalOcean, they offer a $2.50/mo size VPS though). AWS might be cheapest though.

I’ve also really taken to liking the OpenBSD code-correctness and secure-by-default philosophy. Was able to easily score not just an A+ for my webserver on the SSLlabs security analysis, but 100% in all 4 categories:
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=dhammabooks.online


#10

I just said that it’s not my favorite. Naturally, my favorite soil is Canadian.

Thanks for mentioning Vultr and AWS. I looked at Vultr, and ruled them out, and as to Amazon AWS, I don’t trust Amazon. Without trust it’s a deal-breaker.

I did briefly try OpenBSD a long, long time ago, but my rule of thumb now (that I’m older and much less of any sort of risk-taker) is that a distro must have at least enough popularity to make it into the top 10 to be pain-free enough. I know, Distrowatch is not the greatest guage of popularity, but it’s an accurate-enough guage for me.


#11

I think each person is free to choose whatever OS they like. (Nextcloud is accessible from any OS, BTW, through a web browser, no Linux or OpenBSD needed on your own computer).

I would choose Debian for this server. I know it like the back of my hand: 20 years experience. It’s the only OS I’ve ever heard given the honorific title “Venerable” (by many geeks). It’s number 4 right now on Distrowatch, meaning it’s nice and popular in the Linux world. (Spot 1 and 3 are taken up by Mint and Ubuntu, respectively, which are Debian derivatives. I’m using Manjaro on my laptop, BTW, which currently has spot number 2.)

I feel I’m not going to get into spiritual trouble setting this up, because it will only take about 3 days, initially, and I already know how to do it, having done this install twice already. I also know how to pace myself, giving myself plenty of time to take breaks, meditate, etc.


#12

Of course! Even Windows, though I would make a small effort to dissuade against that. I was just sharing what OS I’ve been getting into these days. My own free-ish operating systems journey started with the *buntu’s, to Devuan (Debian minus systemd), to Artix (Arch minus systemd) (…seeing a trend?), to OBSD these days.

Not sure what you’re saying with the popularity? I mean Windows is more popular for home computing, right? Perhaps the community support and ease of finding solutions to common problems across the web. There definitely isn’t much online community with OBSD, but I’ve found it to have some of the best documentation around, all included in the OS itself in man pages. Up there with the Arch and Gentoo wiki’s.

You mentioned Canada, OpenBSD, being based there, historically could ship with encryption when others couldn’t… the US had disallowed exportation of encryption tech as it was considered munitions.

I guess you wouldn’t have to trust Amazon (or any other webhost) if using the Cryptomator option…

just some thoughts


#13

I was referring to popularity in the Open Source World, not popularity on planet Earth.

I’ve always found that whenever I tried some distro that was not one of the most popular, it simply wouldn’t have the mindshare, wouldn’t have the support, would’t have the volunteer power to keep everything running smoothly, and annoying bugs would eventually drag down the overall experience.

In other words, it seems to me that it doesn’t really matter all that much, at the end of the day, how clever a philosophy or approach a particular distro cooks up, what tends to end up mattering most, longer term, is who’s got the numbers on their sides, because that’s ultimately where all the bugfixes come from, making for an overall smooth experience (which is what’s needed to keep me as a longer-term user).

Having said that, I do appreciate a certain amount of “purity” (but don’t want to go to the extreme extent of being some kind of purist freakazoid). I’m “Purist” enough that I could probably never, for example, be a fan of an RPM-based distro like Fedora.

I’m actually very suprised at how smooth Manjaro is. I’ve only found 2 minor bugs in a couple of months of pretty heavy usage (despite using a whole bunch of very up-to-date software). I was an Arch Linux naysayer for a long time, until I realized I wanted a really up-to-date kernel, installed easily, to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown. Then I opened my mind to Manjaro, and it delivered! Having said this, Debian still has my respect for installing on a server.

PS: My Samsung Android smartphone (purchased only like 7 months ago) still has no OS update to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown. What a deplorable excuse of an OS.


#14

At least 2, more like 3 years of funding have been secured. Having said that, it doesn’t look promising that I’ll be going ahead with this. Not enough interest… 3 days remain.


#15

OK, it’ been a week, and clearly there’s virtually no interest.

I’m glad I put the idea out there, rather than making assumptions, then having money spent (plus days worth of labour invested), for no good use, which could go to better uses elsewhere.


#16

Your offer is appreciated, though, even if the interest in accepting is lacking.


#17

Yes, I think it is a terrific idea, really! It’s a great solution, but for what problem? I suspect that many of us would see the benefits after using it, but we’re reasonably satisfied with what we have.

Anyway, thank you so much for caring, and may NextCloud prosper!


#18

It’s quite general purpose. Here’s a chart showing what it’s good at (compared to it’s competitors, who are not Open Source).

In a nutshell, it’s like Dropbox on steroids, as you can add additional cloud-hosted functionalities (which are called “Apps”). I mostly use it for:

  • synching files, contacts, and bookmarks between my phone and laptop
  • sharing photos with family and friends, like a simple Flickr replacement.

#19

Oh, yes, I understand that, I was just pointing to what problem does it solve for us. For example, I don’t have a phone, and I don’t have any photos, so your use cases don’t apply to me. For important file storage, I use Github or back up on a local hard drive. I’d like a calendar, but I only have about five things on it, so it’s hardly urgent. And so on.


#20

Just the discussion here helped me very much. Thank-you Bhante.