All the files! FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions about ownCloud and personal clouds (ha, I used that term!) in general, and All the files! in particular.

Just to clarify, you are providing an ownCloud front end which I can use with the backend storage in my own Rackspace account?

How it plays out is that I am hosting an ownCloud instance, and you get a gig of space. Then you can mount your own storage as a directory. I point that out, because it means that your storage is at least one directory in.

I have the same setup, and I mount multiple containers in Cloud Files (Rackspace’s branded Swift service), for different things like photos and music. In case you were wondering how serious I am about running the site, I share my photos directory with Susan through ownCloud so she has access to all our babby photos. ^_^

I would like to host ownCloud on a Raspberry Pi. Is that possible?

It certainly seems like it is possible. If you want to try that out, make sure to check out Pagekite, for putting it on the web.

I am thinking of dropping Flickr for ownCloud. Advisable?

That depends on what you are using Flickr for, but there is only really one scenario that ownCloud replaces Flickr: if you are sharing private photos with a small group of folks.

If you want to share photos with folks on the public web, you want MediaGoblin. I run an instance for my family (soon to include our tribe), and I use Rackspace Cloud Files for storage.

If you are looking for a backup solution for your photos, then I recommend using your operating system’s preferred backup software. I use Duplicity (found in many GNU systems) to backup my files to a local server at my house, which I backup to a Rackspace container. I do that because we also backup other computers, and it is easier to have those backups at home for our setup. Before that I just backed up my computer directly to Cloud Files.

Check the next question for more on backups and ownCloud.

I have a ton of photos! Can I back them up on allthefil.es?

Nope! ^_^

You should not use my instance of ownCloud for backing up files; it isn’t a great way to do it. ownCloud is great for sharing files between private groups, and even has some features that let you publish it publicly. However, there should be a backup system under it, and I do only the basic amount of that, in part because my files are already backed up elsewhere. If you want to use ownCloud as part of a backup system, you should set that up, or you can pay me to do so.

There is another reason that you shouldn’t use All the files! for uploading a huge amount of files to your own mounted storage backend: I pay for the bandwidth. If you upload 40 gigs of photos and then sync that to another machine, then I end up paying for 160GB of bandwidth (40 to my server, 40 to your backend, and then again the other way). I would prefer not to do that. I don’t think it will be a problem, and if anyone uses so much bandwidth that it catches my attention, I will just ask them to stop. Not a huge deal.

I am looking into how exactly the backend storage system works, to see if we can get around that, but that is how it stands at the moment.

If you have any other questions, please contact me or leave it in a comment. ^_^

Backup plan

After looking at a bunch of options, I think I am going to set up meerkat as a file server, and use Deja Dup and Time Machine to back up my and Susan‘s laptops. Then, I will backup the server to Rackspace. And the file server will live in the front house, which is a bit more protected than having in the cottage.

Yeah, that is my new project… ^_^

Cloud Block Storage

Rackspace adds block storage.

In the most recent update, Rackspace included the ability to add block storage units to servers. It is pretty gnarly, as it requires partitioning and formatting the volume after you’ve attached it to a server.

I’ve waited a while for this, since I expect to expand a whole bunch once my WordPress networks start picking up. Testing it out I can see why it is this way, but I had hoped it would be flexible enough to grow as I need it; instead it requires you choose the size.

I will still use it, of course. I was being careful with the ownCloud quota I set up recently, but screw that! Time to go nuts. ^_^

Building a network of networks

I’ve been busy lately, gonna try to document some of the stuff I am working on.

I’ve been kinda quiet lately because I’ve been working on a multi-multi-site WordPress instance. Yup.

I was already hosting a WordPress network, but I wanted to have different configurations with the same codebase, and if possible, the same userbase (I am very lazy, and don’t want to have multiple accounts on different sites. I ended up going with Networks for WordPress. There are a couple of other plugins that expose the settings required, but that one is the more up-to-date, and the author is very responsive.

Anyhow, it is keeping me busy. I’ve gone through the plugins at WPMU, and have developed some cool ideas for different network configurations. I am going to be going through which plugins I am using for each of them (and probably individually, just for my reference).

The other side of this is that I’ve fought off login attempts that have lagged out my server a couple of times, while also using a lot of the new OpenStack offerings from Rackspace to keep it up (the monitoring has come in handy). I am looking forward to getting access to the cloud storage blocks they are testing right now, so look for that in the next couple of months.

Rackspace Monitoring

Rackspace (via OpenStack) offers server monitoring.

I am leaning on Rackspace pretty heavily these days. I’ve got a multi-network/site instance of WordPress running, and I am learning how to scale it in OpenStack.

Something that popped up recently, and does exactly what I want it to, is server monitoring. It is very simple, nothing like Nagios or other complex system analytics. You create a monitor check, for either ping, HTTP or TCP. It will e-mail you if it fails. That is all I need, and a $1.50 a month is worth it to me. I’ve set these things up before, but then I have to make sure that computer is running.

Peace of mind. ^_^

Rackspace is really pissing me off today. Their tech support is great in my experience. Their accounts department wants me to print out a PDF, sign it, scan it, and send it back to them so I can transfer an account from myself to myself.

Worst customer service.

Rackspace DNS API, rsdns

rsdns is a set of scripts that use Rackspace’s Cloud DNS API.

Rackspace has put the cloud-theme named DNS API into public beta. That means anyone with a Rackspace hosting plan can use the API modify DNS records, but it is beta, so thar be dagrons.

This is happy news for people who want to do more than what the current limited web interface allows, and who also doesn’t want to run their own DNS server. Specifically, this for all those people who want to add SRV records for Google Apps.

While it is exciting, there isn’t much out that uses the API, but fortunately Nick Bettison has put together some helpful scripts that cover a large part of the API (if not all of it). They are good stuff, and there is a GitHub repository for them (rsdns).

Full caveat applies, the API is in beta, and you should look at the scripts before you use them. This is a decent start to what I am sure will be a few solid tools, and you can’t beat simple scripts to make quick changes.

Make sure you have curl installed.

Affiliate programs

I have an affiliate code for Rackspace, but it feels creepy to use it.

I generally dislike affiliate programs. I don’t think they are a bad idea, I just feel that most web affiliate programs have this creepy vibe to them.

I just signed up for Rackspace’s affiliate program, I was thinking it would be cool to have a way for people to give to the projects I build. I had in mind DreamHost’s program, where one could pay for hosting directly, without any money going to the person. That was useful for me, because I host a lot of sites for friends to keep costs down for all of us.

So, now I have this affiliate link, but I don’t know what context to use it. I don’t want to make money from signing people up for Rackspace. I am not endorsing them. I will be the first one to complain about them. What I want is an e-commerce framework where people can give money to specific projects that I am working on. I think my brain may be in permanent non-profit solutions mode. ^_^

So, what do I do with this link, now? Perhaps I will make an affiliates page that lists all the links for all the sites I use, and an explanation of what I will use the funds for. My rational mind tells me that it doesn’t matter, but I cringe at the thought of someone visiting my site and reading the URL and seeing that I am trying to make money off of them.

Silly, maiki.

Update (2012/09): I’ve used Rackspace for a couple of years now, it is pretty good. ^_^

Rackspace DNS servers

Rackspace’s DNS servers are dns1.stabletransit.com and dns2.stabletransit.com.

I have to look this every couple of months, but it isn’t something I have committed to memory. Since it isn’t prominently placed in their documentation, here is Rackspace’s DNS server info:


dns1.stabletransit.com
dns2.stabletransit.com

The are whitelabeled because Rackspace does reseller hosting. I hope this is helpful to other confused web people. ^_^

OpenStack

OpenStack is a set of open-source projects for cloud services deployment. But this post is mostly about my thoughts on big companies. ^_^

OpenStack is a set of open-source projects for cloud computing. They have a Launchpad project space.

This is pretty cool. One of the things that I disliked about Amazon’s cloud offerings was how it had all the trappings of vendor lock-in. I mean, when we build in the cloud we can make specific decisions that mitigate the impact service lock-in will have. However, it was too easy to imagine a standardized method for moving cloud services between providers, and Amazon was in a space where it seemed like they had less to gain from spearheading that.

Also, their services confused the hell out of me. Seriously, it was way too difficult to just get a server up and running. If a service requires seminars or spawns off their own professional conventions, that is a sign I will consider it a waste of time to learn.

However, Rackspace was in a good place to make that particular move, since opening up the cloud services gig is definitely in their interest. Also, despite them being humongous, they still seem small enough, or maybe have a dedicated team, to keep them in touch with developers and web people. They are involved in a lot of open-source projects, and they build their business on it.

Anyhow, here is to hoping OpenStack gains traction. Enough so that Amazon and others will feel compelled to hop on, standards’ wise. It is amazing what standards can do to a market, theoretically. I am a little web developer with a handful of artists and programmers, so I have a feeling I am not actually in the market of cloud computing.

Are there enough of us small shops and people to make even a percent of the money that gets spent on cloud resources?