Can you maintain your privacy while contribute to open source projects publicly? Yes, says Kristian, a developer from Germany who works as a second level support engineer and consultant in a small company that provides advanced management solutions for bigger companies and corporations.
Kristian has been fascinated with computers from an early age. He taught himself and started solving computer-related problems for friends and family members. He used his influence to educate them about the importance of privacy and security. As a result many of his closest friends and family members don’t user services from companies like Google, Facebook and so on.
In his day job, Kristian analyzes issues with the software his company implements in customer’s environments for infrastructure, application and performance monitoring. His job exposes him to network protocols, databases and operating systems of all kind. “Apart from troubleshooting, I’m involved in installation, upgrade, implementation and customization tasks,” said Kristian. “And if necessary for the implementation or customization, I create Shell, Batch or Perl scripts and very rarely little Java applications.”
Interestingly, when it comes to software, Kristian uses what floats his boat. “I have to admit that I never put my focus on Free Software in general. I used the software that was stable, rich of required features and helped me best to fulfill my tasks. When it came to applications that should take care of security related topics and protect my data, I always read tests and reviews about these applications first and only used those who had the best score for privacy and security.”
Close Encounter with Nextcloud
He came to learn about Nextcloud when Frank Karlitschek forked the project he founded to create a new company. “I was very happy to see someone focusing on privacy and data security, someone who puts the interest of the people above financial interests by offering it for free of cost. Especially in a time where Companies and Services (that were known to scan and analyze their user’s/ customer’s data) had a real boom and nobody seemed to care, I really liked that! But at that time I didn’t believe I would ever have my own server.”
Kristian had lost contact with many friends as he is not on social networks like Facebook. Additionally, being a member of a privacy-conscious family it was extremely difficult to share photos and other such information within his family. Nextcloud made it extremely easy to do all of that without compromising privacy.
Even though he had never installed a Unix server he ended up setting up his own server and he was impressed with the quality of the documentation that helped him getting started. “What I like most (apart from the possibility to have my own server and taking full control over my data), is the focus on security. They have a great bug bounty program, they have great security reviews and they use state of the art technologies that provide a user with peace of mind.”
He now maintains his own Nextcloud server that’s comprised of handpicked components. This server serves his family and friends. “The Intel Pentium G4600T has a very easy life and the 16GB RAM haven’t even been filled by 50% yet. The operating system (including all services) is running on the Samsung 960 Evo 250 GB M2 SSD. For data storage, I installed 3 HDDs with 3 TB each as ZFS Raid1. So there are about 5 TB usable storage. The incredible amount of 200 GB are already used.”
He adds: “I decided to use Arch Linux with its LTS kernel as Operating System because I want to profit from the latest features (HTTP2, most modern cipher suites) as quick as possible, but still have bit stability and also because I wanted to use ZFS. The later decision to run the database on the SSD instead of on the ZFS partition is unfortunately pretty much killing the advantage of ZFS snapshots before Nextcloud updates, but well … Nothing is perfect. With ArchLinux I’m also hoping to be one of the first to use TLSv1.3 in production.”
As a web server he chose nginx, because he found it easier to configure thanks to its more comprehensible configurations, and faster with new features. As expected he picked MariaDB as the database server. “With that sizing I planned to make this server available to up to 30 users giving my family (as privileged core users with much higher quotas) the option to invite their closest friends as well. Currently there are only 12 people having an account though, so there is still some room.”
From user to contributor
Kristian evolved from being a user of Nextcloud to one of the most active contributors to the project. He helps other users who struggle with installing Nextcloud or configuring their servers. “I’d love to increase my involvement by contributing at code level, but I have not done any code development for a long time,” he said. “I just need some time management to read some guides and get started.”
What’s so amazing about Kristian is that he shows that one doesn’t have to be an expert in code development to help other users. There is a popular saying in the Kubernetes community that you start with fetching water and chopping wood to be useful for a community. Kristian does the same. “Being a support engineer myself I understand what information might be essential. Even if I don’t have the knowledge about that topic, I try to request the data that could help somebody else to solve the issue when they stumbled across that post.”
As someone who hangs out in the user forums, he has identified many recurring issues that users come across, including updates to new releases that didn’t go smooth, issues with the Onlyoffice or Collabora integrations, issues and questions regarding permissions for shared folders or subfolders, as well as various installation-related issues.
When asked which features he we would like to see in Nextcloud, Kristian said that there are at least a few app ideas out there in the forum. “Sooner or later somebody will write these apps,” he said. “With every app NC will gain new and great features, so the improvements will come no matter what.”
Apart from apps, what kind of features we see in Nextcloud really depends on what the community wants to achieve. “To be a business solution that replaces other established storage solution, Nextcloud needs more granular (folder) permissions. They are essential in my opinion and that’s what users ask for regularly: to share a folder to X number of groups, but each group should only be allowed to access specified sub folders (not all of them).”
Whenever there are discussions, Kristian tries to explain his point of view or expectations from his own use-case. “I believe it is important to show the variety of the community’s use cases, so that developers get a better impression what users try to achieve and what changes Nextcloud need.”
What he loves about Nextcloud
When asked what he loves about Nexcloud, Kristian answers that he absolutely loves everything about Nextcloud, and highlights these points:
- All features are free and available for everybody (no business-exclusive features)
- Nextcloud is easy to install and even easier to update and maintain
- A very fast development of new features – Nextcloud constantly becomes richer in nice features due to small release circles
- Great app ideas and many apps of awesome app developers
- The fantastic community
Commenting on the ‘fantastic community’, he adds: “The community is extremely active. There are so many questions and new topics every day but there are also so many people answering these questions and offering their help. Furthermore I think this community is very respectful, being nice and fair to each other and also patient. When I had little issues or questions myself I always received fast and very good help. It just feels good being a part of the Nextcloud community.”
Guest post by Swapnil Bhartiya