First, let me start off by announcing: (drum roll) WE HAVE COMMENTS!! (cheering, fanfare, etc)

It’s not inside the Jekyll site stuff, but for now, it’s cool. It allows readers to interact if they want, and I’m hoping they want to. I’m open to other ways of doing it, and will be looking into it more, but not as main a focus as it was before. Hyvor Talk is the comments plug in. Hope to hear from both of you!

Ok, now the neato technical shenanigans.

We all know that Google is bad. They know more about you than you do, and if you have an Android phone, you pretty much HAD to set it up with a Google account. So now you carry around a little box that knows your exact location from radio-triangulation with cell towers, it knows who you know, what you’re talking about, what you watch, what you purchase, where you’ve been, where you work, where you live, et cetera ad nauseum! It knows everything about you. Maybe the worst part is that it knows without actually hearing or seeing, but by “metadata.” Make no mistake, it can hear and see everything too, but that’s just extra.

So this little box knows everything, and it shares and synchronizes your everything with Google. Google takes your data (including scanning your emails for receipts) and uses it to target ads to you and to sell you to other companies. But if they have it, you can be sure the government has it too.

It’s absolutely crazy. And don’t you dare say “well I have nothing to hide.” You absolutely do. Watch the movie.

So what can you do about it? There’s a thing called “de-Googling,” and that’s where people try to find alternatives to the “big-data” companies and their massive information hoards. There’s tons of helpful websites out there with alternative apps. You can find them with a quick (non-Google) web search.

But what if you’ve gotten used to it? What if you like your photos, documents, contacts, and calendar to by synchronized to “the cloud?”

Here’s your answer: A personal cloud server at home! Nextcloud Server

Wait..what? Yes. A cloud server at home. But isn’t a server expensive? What about all the disk drives it would take to set it up? Where would I put it?

Look at that picture above. Everything you need is visible. Here, let me give you a couple more shots: Side view of the Pi Nextcloud Server

Other side view of the Pi Nextcloud Server

Actually, you don’t even NEED the keyboard, mouse, and monitor once it’s all set up.

What you’re looking at is a Raspberry Pi, a “Single Board Computer,” sitting atop a Western Digital “Black” four terabyte disk. One is the size of a pack of smokes, the other, half a deck of cards. I know. Amazing. Once it’s all set, you can just toss it in a closet or a desk drawer and let it hum along.

The Raspberry Pi is what you might call a “hobby computer” used in a lot of educational programs to teach kids about information systems and programming. That doesn’t mean it’s not a “real” computer with some clout.

My Pi for this project is the 3B+, and the kit I purchased from included the Pi itself, a power supply, a case, heat sinks for the processor and wireless network chips, an HDMI cable, a 32GigaByte microSD card, and a USB micro-SD adapter to use if I wanted to install different software. The microSD card was already pre-loaded with Raspberry Pi OS.

So I cleaned the CPU and WIFI chips with alcohol and mounted the heat sinks in a quick peel-n-stick operation. Then I mounted the Pi into the base by sliding one end under the retaining tabs. The top part of the case and then the lid followed, and it all only goes together one way. You can’t screw it up.

Next, I plugged in the power, HDMI (connected to a display on the other end), and a keyboard and mouse that were laying around. Lastly, I inserted the microSD card into its slot and we were ready to go.

Turning on the power, the Pi read the SD card and booted into NOOBS, the installer for the OS. NOOBS offered me a couple options, but it also discovered my wireless network and connected. With the network connection, it presented me with several more options. I opted for the full install of Raspberry Pi OS with graphical desktop. It’s essentially a Debian Linux package. The OS is installed to a partition on the SD card, and voila, you reboot into a fully functional battle sta… er… Linux desktop GUI.

From here I installed Apache2 web server, PHP, MySQL, PHPMySQL, and the Cloud package itself, Nextcloud. Although I’ve used Linux for years, and I’ve set up Apache, PHP, MySQL, etc before, the whole process was made SUPER simple by following this tutorial.

The server came up! I was able to log in locally and over the network! Exciting stuff.

After a little familiarization time, I formatted my USB hard drive as EXT4 and mounted it. Then I moved the data directory to the 4TB monster so as not to fill up the SD card. Then I put the client app on my phone and set it up and boom, photos were uploading, notes were synching, calendar, contacts. It was a wonderful thing.

But what about when I’m not home? I went to DynDNS and set up a free account to create a DNS record. Then I set up a DNS record on my router to point the same name to the internal private IP. So inside or outside resolves and routes to the server properly. I also had to forward ports 80 & 443 to the server.

This is all running on a DSL connection, lol. The cool thing about synching is that speed doesn’t matter a whole lot. Also, when outside of home, transfers from phone to server are “downloads” from the perspective of my DSL, so the speed isn’t bad. We’re supposed to be getting gigabit fiber to the house soon. I can’t wait for that, but I don’t have any complaints with the way it is.

What about costs? It cost me $170 to set this up. $80 for the Raspberry Pi, $90 for a 4TB Western-Digital “Black” USB 3.0 external hard drive.

Setup took just a couple hours, and now I’m my own Google. Photos, Contacts, Calendars, Docs, other files all sync to home. There’s also mapping and phone tracking.

I can’t do cabinetry or woodworking, I’m not a machinist or fabricator, I don’t make art, but I am a nerd/geek, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing something like this. Most folks go their whole lives just letting the devices magically “do their thing,” but I know how it works, and with some manuals, I built my own. Pretty cool, I think.

Thanks for reading!

This is #5 of #100DaystoOffload, a blogging challenge intended to get folks to “Just. Write.” If you’re a blogger, were a blogger, or want to be a blogger, jump in!