Transfer Public Links to Federated Shares

Transform Public Links to Federated Shares

Transform a public link to a federated share

Creating public links and sending them to your friends is a widely used feature of Nextcloud. If the recipient of a public link also has a Nextcloud or ownCloud account he can use the “Add to your Nextcloud” button to mount the content over WebDAV to his server. On a technical level all mounted public links use the same token, the one of the public link, to reference the shared file. This means that as soon as the owner removes the public link all mounts will disappear as well. Additionally, the permissions for public links are limited compared to normal shares, public links can only be shared read-only or read-write. This was the first generation of federated sharing which we introduced back in 2014.

A year later we introduced the possibility to create federated shares directly from the share dialog. This way the owner can control all federated shares individually and use the same permission set as for internal shares. Both from a user perspective and from a technical point of view this lead to two different ways to create and to handle federated shares. With Nextcloud 10 we finally bring them together.

Improvements for the owner

Public Link Converted to a Federated Share

Public link converted to a federated share for

From Nextcloud 10 on every mounted link share will be converted to a federated share, as long as the recipient also runs Nextcloud 10 or newer. This means that the owner of the file will see all the users who mounted his public link. He can remove the share for individual users or adjust the permissions. For each share the whole set of permissions can be used like “edit”, “re-share” and in case of folder additionally “create” and “delete”. If the owner removes the original public link or if it expires all federated shares, created by the public link will still continue to work. For older installations of Nextcloud and for all ownCloud versions the server will fall-back to the old behavior.

Improvements for the user who mounts a public link

After opening a public link the user can convert a public link to a federated share by adding his Federated Cloud ID or his Nextcloud URL

After opening a public link the user can convert it to a federated share by adding his Federated Cloud ID or his Nextcloud URL

Users who receive a public link and want to mount it to their own Nextcloud have two options. They can use this feature as before and enter the URL to their Nextcloud to the “Add to your Nextcloud” field. In this case they will be re-directed to their Nextcloud, have to login and confirm the mount request. The owners Nextcloud will then send the user a federated share which he has to accept. It can happen that the user needs to refresh his browser window to see the notification.
Additionally there is a new and faster way to add a public link to your Nextcloud. Instead of entering the URL to the “Add to your Nextcloud” field you can directly enter your federated cloud ID. This way the owners Nextcloud will send the federated share directly to you and redirect you to your server. You will see a notification about the new incoming share and can accept it. Now the user also benefit from the new possibilities of the owner. The owner can give him more fine grained permissions and from the users point of view even more important, he will not lose his mount if the public link gets removed or expires.

Nextcloud 10 introduces another improvement in the federation area: If you re-share a federated share to a third server, a direct connection between the first and the third server will be created now so that the owner of the files can see and control the share. This also improves performance and the potential error rate significantly, avoiding having to go through multiple servers in between.

History and Future of Cloud Federation

Federated Cloud Sharing - Connect self-hosted, decentralized clouds

Federated Cloud Sharing – Connect self-hosted, decentralized clouds

I’m now working for about two years on something called Federated Cloud Sharing. It started on June, 23er 2014 with the release of ownCloud 7.0. Back then it was simply called “Server to Server sharing”. During all this years I never wrote about the broader ideas behind this technology, why we do it, what we achieved and where we are going.


The Internet started as a decentralized network, meant to be resilient to disruptions, both due to accidents or malicious activity. This was one of the key factors which made the Internet successful. From the World Wide Web, over IRC, news groups, e-mail to XMPP. Everything was designed as decentralized networks, which is why if you are on the Google servers you can email people at Yahoo. Everybody can set up his own web server, e-mail or chat server and communicate with everyone else. Individuals up to large organisations could easily join the network, participate and build business without barriers. People could experiment with new innovative ideas and nobody had the power to stop them or to slow them down. This was only possible because all underlying technology and protocols were build on both Open Standards and Free Software.

This changed dramatically over the last ten years. Open and inclusive networks were replaced by large centralized services operated by large companies. In order to present yourself or your business in the public it was no longer enough to have your own website, you had to have a page on one or two key platforms. For communication it was no longer enough to have a e-mail address, or be on one of the many IRC or XMPP servers. Instead people expected that you have a account on one of the major communication platforms. This created huge centralized networks, with many problems for privacy, security and self-determination. To talk to everybody, you have to have an account on Facebook, at Google, Skype, Whatsapp, Signal and so on. The centralization also made it quite easy to censor people or manipulate their view by determining the content presented to them. The algorithms behind the Facebook news feed or the “what you missed” in Twitter are very clever — or so we assume, as we don’t know how they work or determine what is important.

The last few years many initiatives started to solve this problem in various ways, for example by developing distributed social networks. I work in the area of liberating people who share and sync all sort of data. We saw the rise of successfully projects such as ownCloud, Pydio and now of course Nextcloud. They all have in common that they built Free Software platforms based to a large extend on Open Standards to allow people to host, edit and share their data without giving up control and privacy. This was a huge step in creating more competition and restoring decentralized structures. But it also had one big drawback. It created many small islands. You could only collaborate with people on the same server, but not with others who run their own server. This leads us to the concept of federated cloud sharing.

Server to Server Sharing

The first version of this ideas was implemented in ownCloud 7.0 as “Server to Server Sharing”. ownCloud already knew the concept of sharing anonymous links with people outside of the server. And, as ownCloud offered both a WebDAV interface and could mount external WebDAV shares, it was possible to manually hook a ownCloud into another ownCloud server. Therefore the first obvious step was to add a “Add to your ownCloud” button to this link shares, allowing people to connect such public links with their cloud by mounting it as a external WebDAV resource.

Federated Cloud Sharing

Server to server sharing already helped a lot to establish some bridges between many small islands created by the ability to self-host your cloud solution. But it was still not the kind of integration people where used to from the large centralized services and it only worked for ownCloud, not across various open source file sync and share solutions.


The next iteration of this concept introduced what we called a “federated cloud ID”, which looks similar to a e-mail address and, like email, refers to a user on a specific server. This ID could then be used in the normal share dialog to share files with people on a different server!

share dialog - federated cloud id

The way servers communicate with each other in order to share a file with a user on a different server was publicly documented with the goal to create a standardized protocol. To further the protocol and to invite others to implement it we started the Open Cloud Mesh project together with GÉANT, an European research collaboration initiative. Today the protocol is already implemented by ownCloud, Pydio and now Nextcloud. This enables people to seamlessly share and collaborate, no matter if everyone is on the same server or if people run their own cloud server based on one of the three supporting servers.

Trusted Servers

In order to make it easier to find people on other servers we introduced the concept of “trusted servers” as one of our last steps. This allows administrator to define other servers they trust. If two servers trust each other they will sync their user lists. This way the share dialogue can auto-complete not only local users but also users on other trusted servers. The administrator can decide to define the lists of trusted servers manually or allow the server to auto add every other server to which at least one federated share was successfully created. This way it is possible to let your cloud server learn about more and more other servers over time, connect with them and increase the network of trusted servers.


Open Challenges: where we’re taking Federated Cloud Sharing

Of course there are still many areas to improve. For example the way you can discover users on different server to share with them, for which we’re working on a global, shared address book solution. Another point is that at the moment this is limited to sharing files. A logical next step would be to extend this to many other areas like address books, calendars and to real-time text, voice and video communication and we are, of course, planning for that. I will write about this in greater detail in on of my next blogs but if you’re interested in getting involved, you are invited to check out what we’re up to on GitHub and of course, you can contact me any time.

Freedom for whom?

We want freedom

CC BY SA 2.0 by Quinn Dombrowski

This discussion is really old. Since the first days of the Free Software movement people like to debate to whom the freedom in Free Software is directed? The users? The code? The developers? Often this goes along with a discussion about copyleft vs non-protecting Free Software licenses like the BSD- and the MIT-License. I don’t want to repeat this discussion but look at the question from a complete different angle. I want to look at it from the position of a software company and its business model.

If you talk to Free Software companies you realize, that very few have a business model completely based on Free Software. Most companies add proprietary extensions on top and use this as the main incentive for customers to buy their software. In 2008 Andrew Lampitt coined the term open core to describe this kind of business models. There are many ways to argue in favor of open core. One argument I hear quite often is that the proprietary parts are only useful for large enterprises, so nothing is taken away from the community. This way the community gets reduced to the typical home user, which is a interesting way of looking at it. Why should we make such a distinction? And why does home users deserve software freedom more then large organizations?

I understand that freedom in the context of software is a concept which can sound scary to some companies at the beginning. After all, that was the main reason why Open Source was invented, a marketing campaign for Free Software to make business people feel more comfortable. Interestingly this changes quickly if you go into more details about what software freedom really means. More entrepreneurial freedom, control over the tools they use, software freedom as a precondition for privacy and security, independence, freedom to chose the supplier with the best offering and in case of software development the freedom to build on existing, well established technology instead of building everything from scratch. These are freedoms well understood and appreciated by entrepreneurs and they demand it in many other areas of their daily business. This lead me to the conclusion that software freedom is not only something for home users but it also important for large organizations.

Open core often comes with a important side-effects. Most companies pick a strong copyleft license like the GNU GPL or the GNU AGPL, and then demand that every contributor signs a Contributor License Agreement (CLA). This CLA puts the company in a strong position. They are the only one who can distribute the software under a proprietary license and add proprietary extensions. This effectively removes one of the biggest strengths of copyleft licenses. If you set CLAs aside, copyleft licenses are a great tool to create an ecosystem of equal participants. Equality is really important to make individuals and organizations feel confident that joining the initiative is worthwhile in the long term. Everybody having the same rights and the same duties is the only way to develop a strong ecosystem with many participants. Therefore it is no wonder that projects using CLAs often get slowed down and have a less diverse community.

RedHat was one of the first company which understood that all this, CLA’s and proprietary extensions, do more harm than good. It slows down the development. It keeps your community smaller as necessary and it adds the burden to develop all the proprietary extensions by your own instead of leveraging the power of a large community which can consists of employees, hobbyists, partners and customers. This goes so far that RedHat even embrace competitors like CentOS, which basically gives RedHat Enterprise Linux away for free to people who don’t need the support. For a truly open organization this is not a problem but a great opportunity to spread the software and to become more popular. That’s a key factor to make sure, that RedHat is the de facto standard if it comes to enterprise GNU/Linux distributions.

If a initiative is driven by a strong company it can be useful to move some parts out to a neutral entity. RedHat did this by founding the Fedora project. Another way to do this is by creating a foundation which makes sure that everyone has the same rights. Such a foundation should hold all rights necessary to make sure the project can continue no matter what happens to individual participants, including companies. For the governance of such a foundation it is important that it is not controlled by a single entity.

This is exactly what makes me feel so excited about what we are doing at Nextcloud. We are building a complete free cloud solutions, not only for home users but for everyone. This solution will be much more than just file sync and share, from a company point of view stuff like calendar, contacts and video conferencing will become a first class citizen. All this will be Free Software, developed together with a great community. Home users, customers and partners are invited to be part of it, not just as a consumer but as part of a large and diverse community. Everybody should be empowered to change things to the better. In order to make all this independent from a single company we will set up a foundation. As described above the foundation will make sure that we have a intact and growing ecosystem with no single point of failure. This guarantees that Nextcloud can survive us and any other participant if needed.

Road Ahead

Road ahead

CC BY 2.0 by Nicholas A. Tonelli

I just realized that at June, 1 it is exactly four years since I joined ownCloud Inc. That’s a perfect opportunity to look back and to tell you about some upcoming changes. I will never forget how all this get started. It was FOSDEM 2012 when I met Frank, we already knew each other from various Free Software activities. I told him that I was looking for new job opportunities and he told me about ownCloud Inc. The new company around the ownCloud initiative which he just started together with the help of others. I was directly sold to the idea of ownCloud and a few months later I was employee number six at ownCloud Inc.

This was a huge step for me. Before joining ownCloud I worked as a researcher at the University of Stuttgart, so this was the first time I was working as a full-time software engineer on a real-world project. I also didn’t write any noteworthy PHP code before. But thanks to a awesome community I got really fast into all the new stuff and could speed up my contributions. During the following years I worked on many different aspects of ownCloud, from sharing, over files versions to the deleted files app up to a complete re-design of the server-side encryption. I’m especially happy that I could contribute substantial parts to a feature called “Federated Cloud Sharing”, from my point of view one of the most important feature to move ownCloud to the next level. Today it is not only possible to share files across various ownCloud servers but also between other cloud solutions like Pydio.

But the technical part is only a small subset of the great experience I had over the last four years. Working with a great community is just amazing. It is important to note that with community I mean everyone, from co-workers and students to people who contributed great stuff to ownCloud in their spare time. We are all ownCloud, there should be no distinction! We not only worked together in a virtual environment but meet regularly in person at Hackathons, various conferences and at the annual ownCloud conference. I met many great people during this time which I can truly call friends today. I think this explains why ownCloud was never just a random job to me and why I spend substantial parts of my spare time going to conferences, giving talks or helping at booths. ownCloud combined all the important parts for me: People, Free Software, Open Standards and Innovation.

Today I have to announce that I will move on. May, 25 was my last working day at the ownCloud company. This is a goodbye and thank you to ownCloud Inc. for all the opportunities the company provided to me. But it is in no way a goodbye to all the people and to ownCloud as a project. I’m sure we will stay in contact! That’s one of many great aspects of Free Software. If it is done right a initiative is much more than any company which might be involved. Leaving a company doesn’t mean that you have to leave the people and the project behind.

Of course I will continue to work on Free Software and with great communities, especially I have no plans to leave the ownCloud community. Actually I hope that I can even re-adjust my Free Software and community focus in the future… Stay tuned.

Freie Software im Koalitionsvertrag Baden-Württemberg

Landeswappen Baden-Württemberg

Am 13. März wurde in Baden-Württemberg der neue Landtag gewählt. Die nächsten 5 Jahre werden politisch von einer Koalition aus Bündnis 90/Die Grünen und der CDU gestaltet. Am letzten Wochenende wurde hierfür der Koalitionsvertrag von beiden Parteien bestätigt. Ich nahm diese Gelegenheit zum Anlass, um mir den Koalitionsvertrag genauer anzusehen, insbesondere mit Blick auf Freie Software. Dabei wurde ich an mehreren Stellen fündig.

So heißt es im Abschnitt “Chance zur Entbürokratisierung”:

Wir werden die E-Government-Richtlinien und das Beschaffungswesen des Landes bei der IT-Beschaffung in Richtung Open Source weiterentwickeln.

Dies ist sehr zu begrüßen. Unter anderem fordern Organisationen wie die Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) oder die Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA) schon seit längerem, dass durch die Öffentlichkeit finanzierte Software unter einer Freie-Software-Lizenz veröffentlicht werden soll und dass bei Ausschreibungen Freie Software stärker beachtet wird. Gerade in diesem Jahr möchten beide Organisationen hierzu auch verstärkt aktiv werden.

Weiter heißt es im selben Abschnitt:

Auch die Bereitstellung freier Software und offener Bildungsressourcen (OER) durch das Landesmedienzentrum begrüßen und unterstützen wir.

Gerade Schulen, in denen die nächste Generation mit Software und Bildungsressourcen zum ersten Mal systematisch in Kontakt kommt, ist es von großer Bedeutung, dass von Anfang an ein Verständnis dafür entwickelt wird, wie man im Informationszeitalter nachhaltig Wissen und Information erarbeitet und veröffentlicht. Wie könnte dies besser geschehen als durch den praktischen Einsatz von Freier Software und freien Lerninhalten?

Im Abschnitt “Allianz Wirtschaft 4.0 für die Digitalisierung im Mittelstand” ist sogar ein ganzer Abschnitt Freier Software gewidmet. So heißt es dort:

Kleine und mittlere IT-Unternehmen im Land sind besonders aktiv in der Entwicklung von freier, quelloffener Software (Open Source) und in den damit verbundenen Dienstleistungen. Open Source bietet ebenso wie freie Standards und offene Formate große Chancen für ein herstellerunabhängiges Software-Ökosystem. Diese Ansätze wollen wir unterstützen.

Hier wird zurecht der Vorteil Freier Software zur Stärkung des Standorts gewürdigt. Freie Software ermöglicht es, lokale Unternehmen zu fördern und sowohl Wissen als auch Wirtschaftsleistung im Land zu halten. Darüber hinaus wird auf die Wichtigkeit eines herstellerunabhängigen Software-Ökosystems hingewiesen. Man darf gespannt sein, wie die konkrete Unterstützung und Förderung in den nächsten Jahren aussehen wird.

Der Abschnitt “DIGITAL@BW: Schulen mit Digitalisierung und Medienkompetenz” wird noch einmal ausführlicher auf die Rolle von Freier Software und Open Education Resources (OER) eingegangen:

Wir werden die pädagogisch begleitete Nutzung von E-Learning-Programmen im Unterricht vorantreiben und ihr Potenzial hin zu einer genau auf den einzelnen Schüler abgestimmten individuellen Förderung erschließen. Digitale Medien sind fächerübergreifend ebenso wie im Fachunterricht hilfreich. Entscheidend ist weniger die Technik als vielmehr das pädagogische Konzept. Wir setzen uns dafür ein, dass an den Schulen verstärkt freie Lern- und Lehrmaterialien (Open Educational Resources und Freie Software) genutzt werden können.

Gerade bei der fortschreitenden Digitalisierung der Schulen besteht die Gefahr, dass mit dem Einsatz von proprietärer Software frühzeitig Produktschulung betrieben wird, anstelle dass Konzepte gelehrt werden. Des Weiteren kann es schnell passieren, dass der Unterricht mehr oder weniger direkt zur Werbung für einzelne Unternehmen und Produkte genutzt wird. Auch darf der Lock-In Effekt nicht unterschätzt werden. Haben Schüler über viele Jahre hinweg gelernt, mit einer bestimmten Software zu arbeiten und viele Dokumente in proprietären Formaten erstellt, wird ein späterer Wechsel viel schwieriger. Dieses Risiko kann gemindert werden, indem die Schulen darauf achten, dass Dokumente in offen standardisierten Formaten erstellt und bereitgestellt werden.

Es ist zu begrüßen, wenn durch den Einsatz von Freier Software und Offenen Standards eine Bindung an einzelne Programme oder Unternehmen verhindert oder zumindest reduziert wird. Dies gelingt natürlich nur, wenn der Unterricht auch entsprechend aufgebaut ist. Die Wahl von freien Werkzeugen und offen Bildungsressourcen sorgen aber schon einmal für gute Grundvoraussetzungen.

Die Bekundungen zu Freier Software, Offenen Standards und offenen Bildungsressourcen hören sich durchweg positiv an. Wie man aus vergangenen Koalitionsverträgen weiß, bedeutet das aber nicht immer, dass auch alles entsprechend umgesetzt wird. Von daher bleibt es spannend zu beobachten was in den nächsten fünf Jahren in Baden-Württemberg im Bezug auf Freie Software passiert. Ich werde es mit großem Interesse verfolgen und freue mich, wenn ich im Laufe dieser Zeit über konkrete Umsetzungen berichten kann.

Installing Wallabag 2 on a Shared Web Hosting Service

Wallabag 2.0.1

Wallabag describes itself as a self hostable application for saving web pages. I’m using Wallabag already for quite some time and I really enjoy it to store my bookmarks, organize them by tags and access them through many different clients like the web app, the official Android app or the Firefox plug-in.

Yesterday I updated by Wallabag installation to version 2.0.1. The basic installation was quite easy by following the documentation. I had only one problem. I run Wallabag on a shared hoster, so I couldn’t adjust the Apache configuration to redirect the requests to the right sub-directory, as described by the documentation. I solved the problem with a small .htaccess file I added to the root folder:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^links\.schiessle\.org$ [NC]
    RewriteRule !^web/ /web%{REQUEST_URI} [L,NC]

I also noticed that Wallabag has a “register” button which allows people to create a new account. There already exists a feature request to add a option to disable it. Because I don’t want to allow random people to register a account on my Wallabag installation I disabled it by adding following additional lines to the .htaccess file:

<FilesMatch ".*register$">
    Order Allow,Deny
    Deny from all

Guake Terminal Improvement for Multi-Monitor Setups

Guake Terminal

Guake Terminal

Guake is a top-down “Quake-style” terminal. I use it on a daily basis on the Xfce desktop. The only drawback, Guake doesn’t work the way I want it on a multi-monitor setup. On such a setup the terminal always starts on the main (left) monitor. But for many people, including myself, the left monitor is the small Laptop monitor. Therefor many people prefer to open the terminal on the secondary (right) monitor. If you search for “Guake multi-monitor” you can find many patches to achieve this behavior.

For me it is not enough that the terminal always starts on the right monitor. I want the terminal to always start at the currently active monitor, the monitor which contain the mouse pointer. Luckily Guake is written in Python, this makes it quite easy to patch it without the need to re-compile and re-package it. Together with the patches already available on the Internet and a short look at the Gtk documentation I found a solution. To always show the terminal on the currently active monitor you have to edit /usr/bin/guake and replace the method get_final_window_rect(self) with following code:

    def get_final_window_rect(self):
        """Gets the final size of the main window of guake. The height
        is the window_height property, width is window_width and the
        horizontal alignment is given by window_alignment.
        screen = self.window.get_screen()
        height = self.client.get_int(KEY('/general/window_height'))
        width = 100
        halignment = self.client.get_int(KEY('/general/window_halignment'))
        # get the rectangle from the currently active monitor
        x, y, mods = screen.get_root_window().get_pointer()
        monitor = screen.get_monitor_at_point(x, y)
        window_rect = screen.get_monitor_geometry(monitor)
        total_width = window_rect.width
        window_rect.height = window_rect.height * height / 100
        window_rect.width = window_rect.width * width / 100
        if width < total_width:
            if halignment == ALIGN_CENTER:
                window_rect.x = (total_width - window_rect.width) / 2
                if monitor == 1:
                    right_window_rect = screen.get_monitor_geometry(0)
                    window_rect.x += right_window_rect.width
            elif halignment == ALIGN_LEFT:
                window_rect.x = 0
            elif halignment == ALIGN_RIGHT:
                window_rect.x = total_width - window_rect.width
        window_rect.y = 0
        return window_rect

This patch is based on Guake 0.4.4. The current stable version is already at 0.8.4 and no longer contain the method shown above. Still version 0.4.4 is in use on the current Debian stable version (Jessie), therefore I thought that it might be useful for more people than just for me.

Federated Sharing – What’s new in ownCloud 9.0

Privacy, control and freedom was always one of the main reasons to run your own cloud instead of storing your data on a proprietary and centralized service. Only if you run your own cloud service you know exactly where your data is stored and who can access it. You are in control of your data. But this also introduces a new challenge. If everyone runs his own cloud service it become inevitable harder to share pictures with your friends or to work together on a document. That’s the reason why we at ownCloud are working at a feature called Federated Cloud Sharing. The aim of Federated Cloud Sharing is to close this gap by allowing people to connect their clouds and easily share data across different ownCloud installations. For the user it should make no difference whether the recipient is on the same server or not.

What we already had

The first implementation of Federated Cloud Sharing was introduced with ownCloud 8.0. Back then it was mainly a extension of the already existing feature to share a file or folder with a public link. People can create a link and share it with their friends or colleagues. Once they open the link in a browser they will see a button called “Add to your ownCloud” which enables them to mount the share as a WebDAV resource to their own cloud.


With ownCloud 8.1 we moved on and added the Federated Cloud ID as a additional way to initiate a remote share. The nice thing is that it basically works like a email address. Every ownCloud user automatically gets a ID which looks similiar to Since ownCloud 8.2 the users Federated Cloud ID is shown in the personal settings.


To share a file with a user on a different ownCloud you just need to know his Federated Cloud ID and enter it to the ownCloud share dialog. The next time the recipient log-in to his ownCloud he will get a notification that he received a new share. The user can now decide if he wants to accept or decline the remote share. In order to make it easier to remember the users Federated Cloud ID the Contacts App allows you to add the ID to your contacts. The share dialog will automatically search the address books to auto-complete the Federated Cloud IDs.

What’s new in ownCloud 9.0

With ownCloud 9.0 we made it even easier to exchange the Federated Cloud IDs. Below you can see the administrator setting for the new Federation App, which will be enabled by default.


The option “Add server automatically once a federated share was created successfully” is enabled by default. This means, that as soon as a user creates a federated share with another ownCloud, either as a recipient or as a sender, ownCloud will add the remote server to the list of trusted ownClouds. Additionally you can predefined a list of trusted ownClouds. While technically it is possible to use plain http I want to point out that I really recommend to use https for all federated share operations to secure your users and their data.

What does it mean that two ownClouds trust each other? ownCloud 9.0 automatically creates a internal address book which contains all users accounts. If two ownClouds trust each other they will start to synchronize their system address books. In order to synchronize the system address books and to keep them up-to-date we use the well known and widespread CardDAV protocol. After the synchronization was successful ownCloud will know all users from the trusted remote servers, including their Federated Cloud ID and their display name. The share dialog will use this information for auto-completion. This allows you to share files across friendly ownClouds without knowing more than the users name. ownCloud will automatically find the corresponding Federated Cloud ID and will suggest the user as a recipient of your share.

The screen-shot of the new Federation App shows a status indicator for each server with three different states: green, yellow and red. Green means that both servers are connected and the address book was synced at least once. In this state auto-completion should work. Yellow means that the initial synchronization is still in progress. Creating a secure connection between two ownCloud servers and syncing the users happens in the background. This can take same time, depending on the background job settings of your ownCloud and the settings of the remote server. If the indicator turns red something went wrong in a way that it can’t be fixed automatically. ownCloud will not try to reestablish a connection to the given server. To reconnect to the remote server you have to remove the server and add it again.

If the auto-add option is enabled, the network of known and trusted ownClouds will expand every time a user on your server establish a new federated share. The boundaries between local users and remote users will blur. Each user will stay in control of his data, stored on his personal cloud but from a collaborative point of view everything will work as smooth as if all users would be on the same server.

What will come next? Of course we don’t want to stop here. We will continue to make it as easy as possible to stay in control of your data and at the same time share your files with all the other users and clouds out there. Therefor we work hard to document and standardize our protocols and invite other cloud initiatives to join us to create a Federation of Clouds, not only across different ownCloud servers but also across otherwise complete different cloud solutions.

The next Generation of Code Hosting Platforms

Source Code

CC BY-SA 2.0 by
Christiaan Colen

The last few weeks there has been a lot of rumors about GitHub. GitHub is a code hosting platform which tries to make it as easy as possible to develop software and collaborate with people. The main achievement from GitHub is probably to moved the social part of software development to a complete new level. As more and more Free Software initiatives started using GitHub it became really easy to contribute a bug fix or a new feature to the 3rd party library or application you use. With a few clicks you can create a fork, add your changes and send them back to the original project as a pull request. You don’t need to create a new account, don’t need to learn the tools used by the project, etc. Everybody is on the same platform and you can contribute immediately. In many cases this improves the collaboration between projects a lot. Also the ability to mention the developer of other projects easily in your pull request or issue improved the social interactions between developers and makes collaboration across different projects the default.

That’s the good parts of GitHub, but there are also bad parts. GitHub is completely proprietary which makes it impossible to fix or improve stuff by yourself or run it by your own. Benjamin Mako Hill already argued 2010 why this is a problem and why Free Software needs free tools. More and more people seems to realize that this can create serious problems and a large group of active and influential GitHub users sent a letter to GitHub which ends with:

“Hopefully none of these are a surprise to you as we’ve told you them before. We’ve waited years now for progress on any of them. If GitHub were open source itself, we would be implementing these things ourselves as a community — we’re very good at that!”

I can’t stress this argument enough. The Free Software community is a community of people who are used to do stuff and don’t just consume it. If we use a third party library and find a bug or need a feature we don’t just complain, instead we look at the code, try to fix it and provide a patch to upstream. We could do the same for the tools we use. But we need to be able to do it. It has to be Free Software.

Now a lot of rumors and discussion evolved around the news that GitHub is undergoing a full-blown overhaul as execs and employees depart. Some people even predict that this will be the end of GitHub.

Wait for it. Three months from now, GitHub introduces "features" no-one wants or needs. 12 months from now, the exodus.

— Pieter Hintjens (@hintjens) February 7, 2016

It seems that many people underestimated the lock-in effect of the new hosting platforms such as GitHub for a long time. Now they start to realize that it might be easy to export the git repository but what about the issue tracker, the wiki, CI integration, all the social interaction and collaboration between the projects, all the useful scripts written for the GitHub-API? You can’t clone all this stuff easily and move on.

I don’t want to go deeper into the discussion about what’s going on at GitHub and what will happen next. There are plenty of articles and discussions about it, you can read some of them if you follow the links in this blog.

At the moment the ESLint initiative discusses the option to move away from GitHub and by reading the comments you can get a idea about the lock-in effect I’m talking about. With the growing dissatisfaction and with people realizing that they are sitting in a “golden cage” I have the feeling that we might have a opportunity to think about the next generation of code hosting platforms and how they should look like.

Some of you may remember how Git come into existence, the tool which is used as the underlying technology of GitHub. Ironically, Git was born because of quite similar reasons for which the next generation source code hosting platforms might arise. Before Git, the Linux-Kernel developer community used BitKeeper. BitKeeper is a proprietary source control management system. The developer decided to use it because from a technical point of view BitKeeper was so much better than what we had until then, mainly SVN and CVS. The developer enjoyed the tool and didn’t thought about the problems such a dependency could create. At some point the copyright holder of BitKeeper had withdrawn gratis use of the product after claiming that Andrew Tridgell had reverse-engineered the BitKeeper protocols. The Linux-Kernel community had to move on and Linus Torvalds wrote Git.

Back to the next generation of source code hosting and collaboration platforms. It is easy to find Free Software to run your own git repository, a issue tracker and a wiki. But in 2016 I think that this is no longer enough. As described before, the crucial part is to connect software initiatives and developer to make the interaction between them as easy as possible. That’s why traditional code hosting platforms like for example Savannah are no longer a real option for many projects. I think the next generation code hosting platform needs to work in a decentralized way. Every project should be able to either host its own platform or chose a provider freely without loosing the connection to other software initiatives and developers. This development, from proprietary and centralized solutions to centralized Free Software solutions to federated Free Software solutions is something we already saw in the area of social networks and cloud services. Maybe it is worth looking at what they already achieved and how they did it.

To make the same transition happen for code hosting platforms we need implementations based on Free Software, Open Standards and protocols which enabled this kind of federation. The good news is that we already have most of them. Git by itself is already a distributed revision control system and doesn’t need a central server for collaboration. What’s missing is a nice web interfaces to glue all this parts together: a issue tracker, a wiki, good integration in Free Software CI tools, good APIs and of course Git. This will enable us to fork projects across servers, send pull requests, interact with the other developers and comment on issues no matter if they are on the same server or not. Chances are high that we will already find a suitable protocol by looking at the large amount of federated social networks. By choosing a exiting protocol of a established federated social network we could even provide a tight integration in traditional social networks which could provide additional benefits beyond what we already have. The hard part will be to pull all this together. Will it happen? I don’t know. But I hope that after we have seen the raise and fall of SourceForge, Google Code and maybe at some point GitHub we will move on to create something more sustainable instead of building the next data silo and wait until it fails again.

Integrate ToDo.txt into Claws Mail

I use Claws Mail for many years now. I like to call it “the mutt mail client for people who prefer a graphical user interface”. Like Mutt, Claws is really powerful and allows you to adjust it exactly to your needs. During the last year I began to enjoy managing my open tasks with ToDo.txt. A powerful but still simple way to manage your tasks based on text files. This allows me not only to manage my tasks on my computer but also to keep it in sync with my mobile devices. But there is one thing I always missed. Often a task starts with an email conversation and I always wanted to be able to transfer a mail easily to as task in a way, that the task links back to the original mail conversation. Finally I found some time to make it happen and this is the result:

To integrate ToDo.txt into Claws-Mail I wrote the Python program You need to pass the path to the mail you want to add as parameter. By default the program will create a ToDo.txt task which looks like this:

<task_creation_date> <subject_of_the_mail> <link_to_the_mail>

Additionally you can call the program with the parameter “-i” to switch to the interactive mode. Now the program will ask you for a task description and will use the provided description instead of the mail subject. If you don’t enter a subscription the program will fall back to the mail subject as task description. To use the interactive mode you need to install the Gtk3 Python bindings.

To call this program directly from Claws Mail you need to go to Configuration->Actions and create a action to execute following command:

/path_to_mail2todotxt/ -i %f &

Just skip the -i parameter if you always want to use the subject as task description. Now you can execute the program for the selected mail by calling Tools->Actions-><The_name_you_chose_for_the_action>. Additional you can add a short-cut if you wish, e.g. I use “Ctrl-t” to create a new task.

Now that I’m able to transfer a mail to a ToDo.txt item I also want to go back to the mail while looking at my open tasks. Therefore I use the “open” action from Sebastian Heinlein which I extended with an handler to open claws mail links. After you added this action to your ~/.todo.action.d you can start Claws-Mail and jump directly to the referred mail by typing:

t open <task_number_which_referes_to_a_mail>

The original version of the “open” action can be found at Gitorious. The modified version you need to open the Claws-Mail links can be found here.