This week i’m testing out my new Acer A730 to see just what it can do and how far we can take it. One of the frustrations I bumped in earlier this week was that there were limited options when it came to “Phoning home”. Setting up encrypted tunnels to your home network over the internet using VPN or Proxy connections is something we should consider when using public Wifi hotspots.
With the Chromebook relying completely on some wifi connection on a (perhaps foreign) network I was disappointed to find that the only protocols that were supported were L2TP and OpenVpn. Not a bad set to choose from but not something that I had setup on my home network.
Previously I used an SSH server and the SSHuttle app to tunnel my internet, dns and even network traffic over a Socks5 proxy to my home network. I wondered if this would be possible with the Chromebook. Turns out it is ! Let’s start cooking.
To get this little piece of magic working you need 3 things. A : One SSH server (A linux machine) on your home network that has at least one port open to the internet. B : The Secure Shell app from the Chrome store. C : The Switchy-Sharp extension.
Setting it up is quite easy. Lets say we opened up port 8800 of our SSH server to the internet. Setup Secure Shell to connect to the your home SSH server with the additional option to create a port forwarding tunnel on lets say port 8800 with the option -D 8800
All you need to do next is Connect to your home SSH server and use the Switchy Sharp extention in your browser to use the connection. The Chromebook will tunnel all http and https requests AND the DNS queries through the tunnel. That way 95% of your Chromebooks traffic (we aren”t a 100 percent sure about what protocols any other apps you have might use) are piped through a secure tunnel. You don’t only get to connect to your home network (to open up any web-interface to any device or server you have) but also you get to do it all ‘in private’
Dropbox changed its terms of service so they can give you data to the Feds if they just ask for it, Ubuntu shuts down the online fileservice “Ubuntu One” : Who can you trust these days ? The great thing with cloud solutions is that they are on a server far far away, most of them are free and you never have to maintain them. The downside is that they are on a server far far away, they are free and you cannot maintain them. We give up a certain level of control for the convenience of the cloud. It would be of course far nicer if you had a service that offered you all the luxury of the products mentioned above .. but gave you full control, absolute privacy and a completely controlled solution. (and free ! It has to be free).
Do not fear : Owncloud is here.
Owncloud is a self hosted cloud solution that gives you the luxury of the cloud in the privacy of your own home (or on your own hosted environment). Its a cross platform webservice that gives you the ability to store files in the “cloud” and access them from anywhere, Sync those files with your desktop (like Dropbox) You can share your files with friends and access them using mobile clients on Android and IOS devices or a simple browser window.
Don’t trust the cloud with your Calendar and contacts ? Owncloud takes care of that too. Manage your contacts and calendars straight from Owncloud or sync them up with your mobile devices using open standards like .vcard and caldav.
Tired of the tracks on Groovebox or spotify ? Would you like to stream your music (and movies) from your own hard drive at home ? Owncloud even has an answer for that. The built in media player lets you access your library from anywhere as long as you sport at least a browser (AND some underwear .. Owncloud is classy like that).
Want to tie all of your different cloud services together ? Owncloud supports connecting external storage to the service (like network and usb drives) but can also connect to Dropbox and Google Docs, offering ALL those files up in one simple interface.
So what does it take ?
Installing Owncloud is pretty simple. All you need is a linux server and you can choose to install Owncloud either from the repositories (if you are using Ubuntu or Debian) or you can go and download version 6 straight from their website.
Owncloud is based on a web based server so you can access everything from port 80 and add some security by choosing to go for https to do your authentication (highly recommended). You can run it on your server at home OR on a webspace you rented somewhere (or if you are really lucking on your own hosted server in some datacenter). You don’t need a lot of power, but Owncloud does need some ram and some cpu power if it is going to manage and index thousands of files for you.
So how do I do it.
- You can install owncloud directly from the repositories in Ubuntu.
- You can download a ready-to-go Virtual machine (or preinstalled ISO image) of Owncloud on Turnkey Linux.
- You can go to the Owncloud website to download and install the package yourself (and its THE place to get the Desktop client
Find out more.
In all , Owncloud is a very powerful solution when it comes to hosting stuff yourself. It has come a long way since version 6 and I have been a big fan of the convenience, the cross platform compatible-ness (is that a word ?) and the sheer power of integrating multiple storage locations (usb drives, network drives, cloud storage) to ONE single web interface. Try it .. you’ll be on cloud 9.
This week is “Privacy Week” on Knightwise.com where we are going to focus on applications, tips and tricks to keep YOUR data safe from prying eyes. “Why ? ” you might say .. “I have nothing to hide”. Are you sure about that ? Then lets strip the blinds from your bedroom so your neighbours can enjoy the saturday-night “bow-chicka-bowow” action with your spouse .. or since we are at it , remove the doors from ALL public bathrooms … You won’t mind to squat in plain sight, do you .. you had “nothing to hide”.
The point I am trying to make is that privacy is not only a basic human right, “Keeping your privacy” is also becoming a very personal statement in this world where everybody seems to spy on everybody. In this series of articles we won’t teach you how to stay out of reach from the NSA or stuff, but will give you some basic pointers on how to keep your personal information away from script kiddies, nosy network administrators and the small minority of malevolent hackers that might actually be out to get YOU. The fact of the matter is : Getting your hands on other people’s information is just too darn easy these days. What if that nerdy kid in the coffee shop is keeping track of all the url’s you are visiting. What if the stalky network admin at work has an extra special interest in your traffic, what if there is a Pinapple hotspot in operation without you knowing it (Check out the special we did on this interesting device HERE ) “So WHAT ? WHAT can they see ?” you ask ? lets illustrate with a little video here.
So you see : Your privacy is not always guaranteed. Tag along on our privacy week and pick up some pointers on how to keep your privacy .. private.
The most horrible sound that you can imagine is the sound of a smartphone clattering on the floor or the sickening crunch of a breaking tablet display. With many of our favorite devices made out of glass ( I still feel like the Monolith in 2001 a Space Odyssey was actually Apple’s first iPad add) the chance of some of those glass display’s shattering .. is real. But what then ? What when hairline cracks criss cross your screen, (but the touch-part still works) ? What happens when your smart device becomes broken or obsolete. Should you throw away that old or broken phone or tablet ? If its and Android : Don’t ! There is still life in it !
Enter Servers Ultimate.
Servers Ultimate turns your Android device into a home server. It offers you the ability to run “services” on a smartphone or tablet, that are usually reserved for a VM or a beige box. But think about it ! : Your old phone is light, small, powerful, always connected AND has a built in UPS (uninterruptible power supply) called “A Battery”. Why not hook it up to its charger, plop it down somewhere in a corner and start “Serving”.
Servers Ultimate lets you run the following Services on your Android Device
- https (webserver)
- dlna (mediastreamer)
- irc (chat)
- socks (proxy)
- Webdav (web storage)
- Scp (secure file transfer)
The free version of the app lets you run 2 services at the same time, the payed version lets you check all the boxes and turn that old DroidX into a small home server. Storage capacity depends on what you hook up to it ( Internal SD card of your phone or some external storage) Power depends on the processor in your smartphone. But all in all : its a great way to setup a server in your house and re-use an old device.
I’m personally using Servers Ultimate to mess around with my MK802.22 stick to turn that into a home server with the Carbon Footprint of a small fly (its very low power) and hook it up the the wild wild web. Servers Ultimate is Free , but the Pro version will cost you a measly 4.99 in the Google Play Store.