20 May, 2016

Moving on from ownCloud

A few days ago, I published my last blogpost as ’ownCloud’ on our blog roll about the ownCloud community having grown by 80% in the last year. Talk about leaving on a high note!

Yes, I’ll be leaving ownCloud, Inc. - but not the community. As the numbers from my last post make clear, the ownCloud community is doing awesome. It is growing at an exponential rate and while that in itself poses challenges, the community is healthy and doing great.

I joined in 2014, when ownCloud, Inc. had about 36 employees. The community grew that year, according to our history page, from 1 million users to 2.2 while the number of average coders per month went from 62 to 76. For me, the coolest thing that year was the ownCloud Contributor Conference, that brought together 100 contributors for a week of hacking at the university of Berlin. A stressful, but awesome week. Though, my first meeting most of my colleagues was some months earlier at the Stuttgart meetup and my first release was ownCloud 7 not long before the event.

2015 was more of that - our history page has a great overview and I’m darn proud of having been a part of all those things. 2016 brought ownCloud 9, a major release, which was accompanied by an overhaul of owncloud.org, I hope you like our new website!

Not everything is finished, of course. We’re still smack in the middle of awesome work with Collabora and Spreed as well as the WDLabs PiDrive project - I just finished and published this page about it. All great stuff which has great momentum and will certainly move forward.

Myself, I’ll stay around in the community. I’ll talk about the awesome stuff that is coming next early June but until then, don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve got any questions about ownCloud or anything else. You can still catch me on jos@opensuse.org ;-)

11 May, 2016

A tip for dealing with the first GSOC weeks.

No matter if you're GSoC student in openSUSE, KDE, ownCloud or anywhere else, you're community bonding period has started. This is not an easy time because starting something new is always hard and this is, in a sense, a new job.

And many students are still busy with exams and other things. You are ambitious, of course, so you make promises to your mentor and then--you might not be able to follow through on that. You're too busy studying or this family-and-friends thing gets in the way. Now what?

It is fine to make mistakes or miss a deadline...

Please understand that we get this! It is not a surprise and you're not alone. The key here is to communicate with your mentors. That way, they know why you're busy and when you will be back.

Not having time for something, even if you promised - really, that is OK. When you have a job in the future it will happen all the time that more urgent things come up and you can't meet a deadline. Key is that you TALK about it. Make sure people know.

Let me give you a short anecdote - something that didn't even happen that early in my career...

At some point early in my job at a new company, I was on on a business trip and I missed my train. It was quite stupid: I got out in the wrong station. The result was that I had to buy a new ticket, spending over USD 180. I was quite upset about it and afraid to tell my manager about my blunder. I did the easiest thing: just avoid talking to my boss at all. As he was in the US and I was in Europe, that was not hard at all... But, after three weeks of finding all kinds of excuses to get out of our regular calls, he gave me a direct call and said: "what the heck is going on?". I admitted the whole thing and, of course, he was quite upset. But not at the USD 180. That is nothing on the budget of his or any team in any company. The costs of me not talking to him, now that he was serious about and I had to promise to never do that, ever, again.

... if you communicate about it

So what can you learn from my mistake? The rule, especially in the beginning of your career, is to over-communicate. Especially when it comes to new employees, many managers are anxious and worried about what is going on. Telling them often, even every day, how things are going and what you're doing is something they will never complain about.

You can practice during GSOC: sending a daily ping about the state to your mentor, even if it is "hey, I had no time yesterday, and won't have any today". And a weekly, bigger report on what you worked on is also a very good thing to get going.

Understand that it is not unprofessional to miss a deadline or make a mistake, but it IS unprofessional if it comes as a surprise to others when they find out later on!

Especially if there's some kind of issue or you got stuck: you don't have to ask for help right away, though you should not wait to long--topic for another blog. But it is important that management knows. It makes them feel in control and believe me, the nightmare of every manager is to not be in control! If you do these things when you start working I promise you: it will score you points with your boss and help your career.

03 May, 2016

Thursday: ownCloud at Open Tech Summit!

Coming Thursday I'll be talking and workshopping at the Open Tech Summit about getting your ownCloud up and running, either on a laptop, desktop or server or on a Pi(like) device like a Raspberry or Banana Pi. I will bring a few devices to play with, it will be fun!

If you'd like to join, there's a number of free tickets available. Go to this website to register and use the code WELOVEOWNCLOUD.

See you there!

26 March, 2016

Connect to your server in your LAN via your WAN url: an openWRT solution.

So, I run my own ownCloud. Figures, right?

Can't reach the server from the LAN

Of course, I sync files on my desktop between my laptop and phone. The desktop client is setup with the IP address of the server in my living room. But my phone and laptop, configured to connect to my public, DynDNS URL (so they work when I'm traveling), can't connect from the home network. Triple-uncool. I like my photos from my phone to by auto-uploaded when I connect to wifi at home; and more importantly my laptop should sync when I get home from travel!

Danimo blamed my router - a Cisco (Linksys) E4200. That was (once upon a time) an expensive, high-end router. Sadly, having been abandoned by its manufacturer, it has become an expensive, high-end liability. I can't even log into the administration interface, browsers tell me that the connection is insecure. There are more issues, like the slow WLAN-LAN transfer speeds I experienced and I'm not even talking about security here. Linus once eloquently expressed his feelings towards NVIDIA, a resentment I now feel towards CISCO.

openWRT to the rescue

I learned my lesson. No router not able to run an open source firmware will get in my house. While I don't feel any need whatsoever to fiddle with things that do their job, Linksys screwed up here: they left me on broken software long before I had any need for new hardware.

After some digging, I learned that TP-Link has been (mostly inadvertently) a decent citizen for OpenWRT fans. So, even if they'd abandon their router like Linksys/Cisco did, there was a future. I bought a TP-Link Archer C7. Affordable and it can run OpenWRT.

After setting it up initially, things worked. For a day. After that, no amount of fiddling could make it work again. Magic. Today I gave up on the original firmware and installed OpenWRT. It was easy - as easy as upgrading to a new TP-Link firmware: download the openWRT firmware, go to the upgrade interface, select it, hit start. A while later you ca visit the web interface. Which is a tad more complicated, but not much - and noticeably more capable. It didn't take me any longer than on the original firmware to set up my wifi and guest networks.

How to make it work

But it didn't solve the problem. I had to resort to a web search and found a neat trick, which I'm happy to share (assuming 192.168.1.11 is your server on your LAN):
  • Log into your router over ssh
  • Add to your /etc/dnsmasq.conf file the following: address=/example.com/192.168.1.11
  • Add to your /etc/hosts file: 192.168.1.111 example.com
A few minutes later, things will work.

Essentially, the DNS provider in OpenWRT will provide your local server address to local clients... It thus breaks when you use another DNS than the one provided by the router via DHCP.

I'd be happy to hear from other and/or better solutions. Heck, this might only work for a day or might be horrible or maybe I changed something else which made it work. What do I know...

17 March, 2016

New ownCloud Events

I've just added some events to the ownCloud events page:
I myself will be in Chemnitz this Saturday and Sunday and in Lithuania as well, both cases I'll give a talk and in Chemnitz we'll run a booth. If you are at any of these events or were thinking about going - come say hi to the ownCloud Flag (or t-shirt) bearer!

We can use your help!

There are other events where an ownCloud presence would be awesome. For example, LinuxWochen Wien ("Linuxweeks Vienna") has no ownCloud appearance yet and the CfP closes in three days!!! If you live close there and would be up for talking about ownCloud, that would rock, please, reach out to me...

The same is true for the SouthEast LinuxFest which has it's call for papers still open. If you live in the South East of the US or were already thinking about going there, can I convince you to talk about ownCloud and perhaps help run a booth?

How to give a talk

I know, just out of the blue giving a talk about ownCloud might not be the most attractive thought you can come up with. But I've got stuff to make it easy... First of all, slides complete with notes can be found in a public github repo here. On top of that, we've got quite some information on our website about promoting ownCloud at an event, including speaking tips and tricks. And I'd be happy to give you some support in person. If you need any materials for a show you're presenting ownCloud at, we have materials available, too!

And do you know any other events ownCloud should be at?

06 February, 2016

FOSDEM 2016 and ownCloud, Kolab, KDE and more

Devices at our booth
After rocking SCALE, FOSDEM was next and a great event. Killing, too - two days with about 8000 people, it was insane. Lots of positive people again, loads of stuff we handed out so we ran out on Sunday morning - and cool devices at the ownCloud booth.

Team

When we still had stickers and Jan still liked me
We had quite a team at the booth, with Frank Karlitschek, Philippe Hemmel, Jan-C Borghardt, Lukas Reschke and myself. Lukas visited his first FOSDEM and even though he started to complain a bit on Sunday about having had to many social interactions, he enjoyed it. Philippe was at his first ownCloud booth but has helped out at booths before so that went entirely smooth and Jan - well, he's so popular, people were nice to me a few times thinking I was Jan. I had to disappoint them, Jan was often to be found in the Design devroom where he gave a talk about how we do design at ownCloud (see also our earlier blog about 6 ownCloud User Interaction Design Principles).

Lukas and cameras don't go together well
My experience was the usual FOSDEM rush with so many people already there at 9:30 on Saturday (even though it is supposed to start at 10:00) that you barely have time to think, eat & drink or walk around and talk to old friends. I already had a long day on Friday as I went to a community statistics workshop by Bitergia but I'd even be tired after FOSDEM if I had a week to sleep in before...

Stuff

Frank pushes press away ;-)
We had lots of stuff at the booth. Our usual stickers, flyers and some posters as well as my laptop where people could see ownCloud and sign up to our newsletter (80 new readers, yay). We also had some very cool devices, 2 prototypes from our friends at Western Digital and a spreed.me box, stay tuned as we have some cool news coming from there soon ;-)

Unfortunately, I hadn't brought enough stickers and flyers, we ran out in the morning of Sunday already, as Jan couldn't help but tell me over and over again. Yes, I brought over twice as much as last year but I guess I didn't factor in the growth in popularity of ownCloud... I'll double up again next year. Maybe triple.

It was great to talk to people about ownCloud, the devices, give them stickers and, in rare cases, explain what ownCloud is. Most people who walked by the booth already used ownCloud (yeah, techie crowd!) or are planning to, just one out of 10 has not heard of it. In general, my biggest regret at FOSDEM is that there are still people walking by whom we didn't manage to talk to. Perhaps more of those don't know the awesome that is ownCloud and are put off by the busyness at our booth - at many times, there was a row of 3-4 people thick in front of the booth and three of us were each talking to several people at once. Did I mention it was insanely busy?

Other booths

I did have some time to walk around and meet people at other booths, like the KDE, openSUSE and Kolab booths close by, as well as the FSFE stand. And I will promise myself, again, that I'll walk past all booths next year. Next year... Looking forward to it already!
FSFE let you send postcards to your favorite projects! A really nice initiative.
KDE showing their 'convergence'. The had Plasma Desktop running on an oDroid C1, quite smooth, and a mobile phone running Plasma Mobile! And very nice name stickers, too.
Happy Kolab team
Selfie with Markus Feilner - now at openSUSE. Their booth was close to ours, good to see so many old friends there again, including a strong Greek delegation!

Give me a shout if you want to help out at the ownCloud booth at FOSDEM or other events as we can always use more helping hands...

03 February, 2016

Why use ZIP instead of TAR?


I've been asked recently why ownCloud zipps its files instead of tarring them. .tar preserves file permissions, for one, and with tar.gz or tar.bz2 you have compression too.

Good question. Let me start by noting that we actually have both: zip and tar.bz2. But why zip?

A long time ago and far, far away

In the beginning, we used tar.bz2. As ownCloud gained Windows Server support, we added zip. Once we dropped Windows support, we could have killed the zip files. But we had reasons not to: tar is, sadly, not perfect.

Issues with Tar

You see, tar isn't a single format or a 'real' standard. If you have a platform other than plain, modern Linux, think BSD or Solaris, or the weird things you can find on NAS devices, tar files can get you in trouble. Unlike zip, tar files also can have issues with character format support or deep folders. We've had situations where upgrades went wrong and during debugging we found that moving to zip solved the problem miraculously... And, as ownCloud, we're squarely focused on the practical user experience so we keep zip, alongside tar.bz2.

See also the GNU tar manual if you want to know more about the various tar formats and limitations.

Sadly, sometimes it is impossible to find one thing that works for everyone and in every situation.


Tarred turtle pic from wikimedia, Creative Commons license. Yes, that's a different tar, I know. But - save the turtles!