Cloud Rules

This is just one of those exceptionally silly joys: I just discovered a solution (after YEARS of annoyance) to the inexplicable failure for the Calendar app to support events beginning in one timezone and ending in another (iow: air travel events.)

Nextcloud‘s Calendar app.

It has its own share of annoyances – particularly the Amero-centric inability to display week starting on Monday (or Saturday, or any other day than Sunday) and the one which really pisses me off: time is entered in a cute little grid of AM and PM. Really? no 24 hours? You really have to take up that much of my screen real estate to show me two 12 hour grids AND a grid of 5-minute increments?

But, under the start and end time is a little globe icon which allows one to enter – by city (again, massive fail on the UX) – the timezones of start and finish. Et voilà! it propagates to all my devices (since all their calendars are synced with my cloud.) And now my mac, once I turned on timezone support in the Calendar preferences, happily realizes that a flight originating in Vancouver (Pacific Timezone) will land in Minneapolis-St. Paul (Central Timezone) and it will get the times right.

Alas…

I am sadly convinced the Mail app for Nextcloud presently manages to conflict with the desktop sync client.

Which means I need to try to set up Roundcube or similar as a separate site. Sigh.

Nouveaux jouets

Clearly, looking about the site, you can see I am beginning to play with some new scripts and projects.

Pingo listening to a record on headphones
I am so sorry for the animated gif, but it was too cute.

Which is loads of fun and excitement for me, even though the changes which are visible seem to be moving very slowly toward/away. I have wanted to set up a decent audio media website for far too long, and now I am finally dipping my toes into Ampache.

Which is somewhat user hostile. Apparently the configuration file has a huge range of absolutely essential lines, but there is zero documentation of what must be included for the system to work. And there are no ‘sane defaults’ – in fact, most of the essential variables are commented out. While understandable, because many of the tools for this cross-platform script are highly individualised, failing to document a minimum necessary configuration or to provide an annotated working example means your project is broken. No, really, it is broken, a failure, it is unusable, unfit for purpose.

Anyway, enough <rant />. Streaming media is one, but not the only, nifty tool I have been playing with. Nextcloud is another. Last summer Nextcloud forked from ownCloud, which I had been using for some years. Since ownCloud had been feeling a bit chaotic for a stretch, but I am somewhat cautious about jumping on the bleading edge when it comes to services (and, more importantly, I was in the process of planning, purchasing, and building new server hardware – that is, distracted) I adopted a wait-and-see approach. Well, it turns out most of the core developers decamped to Nextcloud and, over the months since, have dramatically outperformed the ‘parent’ project in terms of commits and codebase roll-out. More importantly, they have abandoned the tiered ‘community’ and ‘enterprise’ model for a pure opensource single codebase.

What this means for me is some of the ‘premium’ features and functionality – after being completely rewritten to use solely opensource libraries and code – are now readily available. One of these is video chat. There are two modules available to provide this functionality, and I am testing out Video Calls which uses WebRTC[en.WP]. It appears both implementations (the other is called Spreed.ME) are based on the Spreed.ME project, which was/is an education-oriented video chat integrated in a learning environment. The huge benefit, of course, is that education has to be focused on privacy and security for students, while at the same time providing a homogenous learning experience across a diverse range of hardware and software platforms.

So currently the video call system integrated into Nextcloud allows inviting people to a call via their cloud account or by sending them a link. Calls can be 1on1, or group events with the whole family. Because only a browser is required, your callees do not need to install a separate program, but of course they can use specialized apps if they would like – anything which can use WebRTC (which is a surprising number of apps on Android, and probably at least as many on other platforms like Windows, iOS, MacOS…) And, of course, it all takes place on my machine so it is not being recorded and stored for later possible retrieval (e.g. Skype, Hangouts.)

Which is a lot more fun to play with than the occasionally frustrating problems due to software migration, or trying to configure a software with very cryptic (or entirely missing) documentation.