Reclaiming your data
IT is moving to the cloud. Long ago, before Office 365, I started building my own cloud. A Hyper-V cluster hosted in a datacenter with hosted Exchange, hosted virtual networks, websites and online backup. Not much later BPOS entered the stage, later to become Office 365. Servicing SMBs, I held of moving to the cloud rather long for most of my customers, but the last couple of years, I’ve uploaded tons and tons of data to the cloud on behalf of customers. My own personal e-mail domains fell victim to the ease of use and shear unattainability of self-hosting mail infrastructure based on a Microsoft technology stack for a humble hobbyist.
It never sat right to begin with. Since I started dabbling with Open Source software, it dawned pretty quickly that the tools are still out there. Spinning up some first projects without too much trouble, and successfully shifting some first workloads to self-hosted Libre solutions, a certain focus took shape. I want my data back!
Proving a hobby with a mission can be a powerful thing, solutions are popping up rather quickly. If anyone else feels their data belongs on their own metal, I’ll write out here how I’m going about it at the moment, one service at a time.
Hoarding by far the most of my data capacity-wise, this was an obvious starter but also has quite some strings attached. I have got files stored on OneDrive, but many of them are also shared. I access and sync OneDrive one a plethora of devices and operating systems. I backup various things to OneDrive like pictures from my phone, archives, …
Attic Box is an implementation of NextCloud. This project is awesome! It’s the successor of OwnCloud, which I’ve used before with little success. NextCloud provides a pretty much complete OneDrive replacement for file storage, access and sharing on any platform with sync clients, mobile apps, you name it. On my phone, the Android app backups my photo’s with more flexibility than OneDrive. WebDAV access allows backups from pretty much anything else.
The very extensive list of add-ons offer solutions for some other areas!
The add-on “Group Folders” works great as the shared libraries in OneDrive.
I did not expect to easily replace Office Online integrated in OneDrive. Collabora CODE actually made that part easier than I could imagine. Diagrams.net integration even allows online editing of Visio files (you should try that with Office Online, really!)
On the todo list: expanding the storage allocated to the VM and move the rest of my OneDrives to Attic Box!
WhatsApp, Skype, Signal, Teams, there is no end to the list of channels through which I am reachable. The list of channels I need to communicate with other people is equally endless but unfortunately not always compatible… They just have one common denominator, each and every one is run by a private company making money on at least the meta-data of your private communications. Ok, maybe not Signal, but the rest of them are. Even with Signal, you depend on a third party running the service for you to be able to access it. If you don’t feel like anyone having a say in who you can reach, Attic Chat is for you. True Open Source and federated instant messaging, with bridges to many of the most popular apps out there. Brought to you by Matrix.
I have tied my WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger accounts in my Matrix account @gizzmo:atticstudios.be. Attic Chat allows access from any device, and the Riot.IM or RiotX apps keep me connected on the road.
All my text messaging, audio- and videochat, file sending, replying, liking, stickering, and then some needs are fulfilled!
Searching the Interwebs
Possibly an activity I spent by far the most time on since I started my Open Source adventures. Yell a question to the world wide wonderweb and thumb through the echoes that return. As for 99,999% of the world population, my go-to place was Google. I wonder what my Google profile looks like in the mean time.
That had to be open for improvement… welcome Attic Searx!
My searches now still (also) use google.com, among an impressive list other engines. Searx proxies them for me in perfect anonimity, none of my search terms or which pages I choose to open add to any database of any corporation anymore. Even the pictures of the image search are proxied. Nice.
It’s a small change to make to search with Attic Searx automatically on most browsers. I’ve been impressed with the results so far!
A simple little web service that allows you to send burn-on-read notes through a link. I use it since long to send passwords to people. The recipient can be sure he is the only one who has seen the note, and no one else could see it ever again …or can he? I don’t manage privnote.com. I don’t really know what happens with those notes after I click ‘send’…
I have seen quite some privnote.com clones, privnote.com lookalike school projects, various different approaches to do the same thing, but none of them worked just right, some I did not get up and running at all. I found a solution with PrivateBin, which is available as Attic Secret.
One thing I found missing is the option to be notified when the note is read. On the other hand, Attic Secret can serve as a full-featured pastebin with file uploads, code color coded formating and MarkDown formatting.
Not really a concern to keep this data out of the cloud, the entire point of it is to make data available to the cloud! This project had more to do with control than actual data ownership. Although, nobody can read the databases behind the websites that are running on there since everything is running here locally.
It was a rather extensive installation script to follow, but getting ISPconfig 3 up and running was a near-flawless experience. The resulting web server has been running fine so far and feels thoroughly robust. There’s little to show for it except for the login page, but if anyone would like to host a website, drop me a line.
It is currently running Apache, MariaDB, PHP 7.3, Postfix and Dovecot with webmail and various profiles of spamfiltering.
Attic Studios mail is currently hosted on Office 365. I still need a solution for the mail part, and OneNote. Surprisingly enough nearly all other features and gadgets on the Office 365 platform are rather easily replaced.
For calendar, tasks and contacts I am preparing to move to the respective add-ons in Attic Box. Currently pretty invested in Microsoft Outlook, I don’t expect any problems syncing caldav and cardav from Attic Box. Replacing Outlook will be a project on its own, I think…
On Mobile, DAVx is doing a fantastic job so far. I am on the lookout for a Tasks app, though. I love “Tasks & Notes” but it only syncs with Microsoft and Google mailboxes. Suggestions?
For OneNote, well… I have not found anything like it in Open Source.
I’ve tried Joplin and some other MarkDown-based projects, but those are hardly as flexible. BookStack was a bit of a disappointment with no private and shared shelves. It looks like an awesome app if you are actually writing shelves full of books, I just hoped to used it differently.
And for mail, well, with calendars, tasks and contacts taken care off, a simple IMAP mailbox could probably suffice. I have little experience with IMAP to date and even less positive experiences. Not sure what the options are concerning sharing mailboxes and folders in mailboxes among users. On the todo-list.
I have made more progress than I anticipated over the last couple of months, but I am not quite there yet…
Some issues remain to be tackled:
…to be continued