The owncloud odyssey – Part 1

The last couple of weeks have been on and off for me. I was busy doing all sorts of stuff and didnt really get going on the xubuntu laptop of mine to work things out and test things out and so forth.

I tried installing and setting up an email server on my xubuntu system but so far just got it installed but sadly not running,…oh well, maybe it is running but I can’t really access it via a webinterface nor do I know how to access it with a proper email client like Thunderbird or something alike. So the email project has to wait. Instead I had the wonderful idea of introducing my father to owncloud.

There’s nothing wrong with my father but the home network structure is just wack. I had to set that up “properly” couple of weeks ago, still didn’t manage to sketch a blueprint of it for later use and adjustment. So, they got a couple of pcs in the building. Mainly a macbook connected via wifi and three computers on the office LAN, of which 2 are the main pcs we take into the equation. Owncloud would be an awesome solution for this setup to fulfill all my fathers wildest “Data Backup Dreams” – there is a bit of chaos involved in working on a couple of computers on basically the same files but they are never in sync and you have em backuped like 10 times not including the real backup where they are also stored like 10 additional times. So in the spirit of spring house cleaning we set out to breakdown this backup chaos into little bits of merging things together.

To cut all the story, we are now set out with the plan:

1. Get the Macbook data to be cleaned and streamlined, no double files.

2. Get the PC1 data to be cleaned and streamlined, no double files.

3. Setup the owncloud server on PC2 to make the merging and syncing of data easy.

4. Optional goal that developed from working on things: Get the owncloud accessible online via webbrowser and/or iphone app – at best via https (ssl)

Since I am not involved in cleaning my fathers data and because its not really a part of this blog I cut right to the core now. Point 3 and 4 shall be of our interest.

We installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on PC2, from now on called “the server”. It’s a pretty old machine, single core, maybe 1.6ghz and 768MB RAM, but it was spare and we have some 250GB HDD + 60GB for the System on it. Installing Ubuntu isn’t really much of a hassle if you got no special plans but we wanted to have the owncloud data stored in the home folder of the main user. I configured the 60GB HDD as ext4 and made it root and added a couple of gigs as swap from the same hdd. The 250GB drive was mounted /home/ (dont know if that makes sense, I am a noob) so the home-folder would have all the space it needed with the owncloud data folder in it. This is the basic setup I made out to work. And it did and does but sadly Ubuntu doesn’t really work well with owncloud it seems. After setting up everything it turned out the sync speed was slow as hell with clients on windows and macosx. This seems to be a common problem since almost over a year now and there is no real solution to the problem it seems. It has to do with a huge amount of small files it seems.

Switching from SQLite to MySql helped resolve this issue for some people. Installing php5-apc has helped some other people resolve the issue. Configuring MySql to have db_host be 127.0.0.1 instead of localhost has helped some other people. Unfortunately nothin of the above helped in our case. Gladly I stumbled upon a thread in which a user hinted that the problem might come from Debian based distros, he switched from Ubuntu to ArchLinux and the sync speed increased tremendously. I checked my own Xubuntu to Windows7 syncspeed and everything seemed to work fine.

So we deleted Ubuntu on the server and installed Xubuntu 12.04.3 LTS on it with the same HDD mounting setup. Turned out this resolved the issue for us. Why, we, I dont know but it works now and I like it to stay that way. The old machine runs way better anyway with lightweight xubuntu instead of Ubuntu. And I even got the cloud being accessible from the internet.

But more on all the details in the next post.

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