Installing ownCloud on a Raspberry Pi

January 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Given all the recent press about the National Security Agency (NSA) practically wiretapping the world, I thought it was time to investigate available options for keeping my private data private.

I’ve been aware of the ownCloud product for some time and thought it was time to explore it’s functionality and determine how it rates given my needs.

But first, what is ownCloud? ownCloud is an open-source, secure file syncing and sharing service that you install and manage on your own hardware.  Basically, it’s your own private cloud running on your own hardware.  (As compared to using a cloud-provider that may or may not be selling your data to assorted government agencies.)

Why Raspberry Pi? RPis are very small, low power Linux computers which are easily configurable to meet many basic desktop or server applications.  In this case, running ownCloud.  Plus, I happen to have a spare one on my desk at the moment. 🙂

I began this project by preparing a blank SDCard using my Automated Raspbian Installer to start with a minimal Raspbian installation.  From there, I began by downloading the ownCloud 5.0.14a Server for Debian where I ran into some unexpected dependency problems (which I didn’t capture at the time to share here).  Thinking there had to be an easier way, I began scouring the web to determine if someone else had encountered this problem and came across this gem at the petRockBlog: Your own cloud server with Owncloud on the Raspberry Pi. (TL;DR go straight to the OwncloudPie GitHub Repository)

I thought the petRockBlog folks did a fantastic job putting together a script to automate this process.  And, not being one to reinvent the wheel for such an endeavor which may not yield success, I decided a well documented short cut at this point was well deserved.

Of course, I didn’t capture any of the setup process at the time because I’m only blogging about this after the fact — but the menu-driven installation was pretty much painless although setting up ownCloud took a little more effort.

Unfortunately, I discovered a few deal-breakers — which is why I’m glad I didn’t spend hours configuring a server only to end in disappointment.

First, there’s the speed.  Or lack thereof.  I blame this solely on the limited processing power of the Raspberry Pi.  I’m not sure if ownCloud is CPU/RAM hungry or the RPi just can’t deliver.  Either way, the product worked but using the web client to configure the server was discouragingly slow.  If this were the only obstacle I encountered, I probably would have let it slide as it’s operation didn’t seem slow so much as configuring it was slow.

Second, the iPhone app has limited functionality.  I was really hoping I would be able to find a cloud solution that would provide me with a place to host all my photos, on my own hardware, where I own the copyright on my data.  ownCloud allows me to do this, but it’s not as refined as I would like.  The iPhone app allows me to browse the photos I’ve uploaded to ownCloud BUT it doesn’t have the ability to show me a thumbnail of the photo before I invest the time downloading it over the wire.  Sequential filenames (photo1.jpg, photo2.jpg, etc) don’t tell me anything about what the photo is, so without thumbnails to get an idea without opening the file makes this solution a no-go.

Should ownCloud improve the functionality of their iPhone application, I might return to check it out again but until then, I’m still searching for the perfect photo-sharing solution.

P.S.
Had the photo-sharing worked the way I envisioned it, I would have bothered to invest the time exploring it’s calendar and contact sharing capabilities — but without it, I’ll continue keeping the NSA aware of my personal life via iCloud.

Aaron Melton

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