Cloud computing is now firmly embedded within the IT mainstream, with companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft offering a range of cloud services. And now you can too: in this tutorial we're going to create a cloud server using a piece of software called Tonido.
We'll set it up initially so we can access the various services from within our home network and also over the internet so we can share music and documents and remotely access a calendar, to-do list and other services. Let's go!
We'll need to start by downloading the software from www.tonido.com. The package is available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, with the Linux version offered as a Deb file suitable for installation on Ubuntu or some other Debian-based distro. (SUSE and Fedora users have reported successful installations after using the Alien converter to create an RPM file.)
Once you've downloaded the software, double-click the file to install. The application itself is controlled entirely through the web browser, so selecting the Tonido icon (which appears in Applications > Internet) will launch your default web browser with the address http://http://127.0.0.1:10001/ui/core/index.html in the address bar. This is the local machine IP address (it might also show localhost), followed by the access port (10001) and the path to the index.
Tonido is available for all three major platforms, and, in use, is exactly the same regardless of the OS you choose.
The first job is to create a new profile for the server, so click on Create Profile.
When creating a profile you'll need to provide a username, which will form the basis of a email@example.com ID and a http://name.tonido.com web address. You'll also be asked for a password and a question/answer binary which is used to provide an additional layer of security whenever you access the server remotely. You need to be connected to the internet when you do this part of the setup, as your username is sent to Tonido's authentication system, which allows traffic to be routed to your server over the internet.
Once the profile has been created it will be available from the profile screen. Select the name and enter the password (and answer if you're accessing from another machine on the network) and click Login to go to the main Tonido dashboard.You'll see a small sunshine icon in the desktop's notification bar. You can use this to do quick configuration of the server, such as enabling web access, and also to shut things down.
The Tonido dashboard is where you can manage the server and its services.
Setting up services
The default Tonido has a selection of applications installed, which are listed down the left-hand side of the screen. We'll now configure a few of these and then add some additional applications, all from within the browser interface.
Once indexing has finished you should see a file tree on the left of the window containing all your music. Navigate through this until you get to individual songs, then select a song, hit the Play button and relax to your favourite tune. You can also use the Playlist options (beneath the Collection window) to create a new playlist, then drag and drop songs from the collection on to the name. As with Sockso, playlists can be accessed and edited on both the local and remote machines. The player can also shuffle a playlist and enables the user to select a quality rate for the streaming (useful if you're listening on a very slow network), and the software will transcode the stream on the fly.
Photos We can also create a photo gallery to share with users. To begin you need to create a Group in the Photos app, which can then be assigned a Share that will contain the actual photos. Under the Shared Folders section on the left-hand side, choose Manage and then click Create Group. Give the group a name and set whether it should be 'open', in which case all users on your network can access it, or 'closed', which means you'll need to send out invitations.
With the group created, click on Add New Share from the toolbar at the top of the main window and browse to the folder of photos you'd like to share. Select this, then add it to the group created earlier and click Finish. Under the Manage Shares option now you'll now see the folder you've added, and you can bring up a gallery of images by selecting Browse. Click on an image to see a larger version, or hit the Slideshow button to see an automatic slideshow appear in the centre of the window.
The great thing about the photo application is that it contains the kind of facilities you might expect to see in a service such as Flickr, including tagging, rating, comments and various sizes rendered on the fly. To take things a little further, you can do this same process under the Webshare application and share the contents of any folder among your local network or on the internet, which means you can access everything from any computer anywhere.
Photos can be shared with individuals or groups of people.
Notes Tonido's Thots system is a private journal/blog system that can be used to keep notes that are then accessible from any computer. Thots are stored locally on your machine, you can use the Settings option on the left of the screen to add Twitter support, meaning you can tweet directly from your desktop, and keep a local copy of your missives. To use this, simply click the Add Thot button and start typing.
Once you hit Submit, your text is saved to the service and its displayed in a blog-like trail, with each post appended with a series of icons used to edit, delete or send the post to Twitter. There's even a Firefox plugin that can be used to clip the contents of any website to a Thot. With the plugin installed and Tonido running, you can right-click on any web page and either clip a selection of the site's URL to a Thot for later use. If you clip a selection it also adds the URL of the site as a link, which is a very useful addition.
The final thing we're going to look at is the Workspace, which brings calendars, tasks, contacts, notes and files together into a single place - perfect if you work or play across different computers. The Workspace has its own dashboard, which gives you a good overview of the state of things, and has section in which you can add new elements. They all work in the same way, so adding a calendar event has a similar workflow to adding a file to be shared.
For example, to add a task, go into the appropriate section, click the Add button and then input the task details. Similarly we can add a calendar item by going into that section, clicking Add and inputting the time, date and subject of the event. This will then appear in the calendar.
At any point you can nip back to the dashboard and get a big picture view of what you've been doing or look under the Timeline tab to see your activity set out as a kind of river of information that can be navigated and interrogated using the Filter options.
You can create multiple workspaces within Tonido. You might create one for each client, for instance, or one for home and another for work. Each is accessible from the list on the left and can have its own associated collection of files, notes, calendars and task lists.
To create a new workspace, click the Add/Remove link at the top of the list. There are two different types of workspace: your Personal Workspace is active by default and used to hold information just for your use. The other type is called a Group Workspace. These are traditionally used for collaborative working, but can easily be restricted for your use only.
Once you've clicked Add/Remove, select Create New Workspace and provide the requested information. Set the group to Restricted, since this gives you the most control. Add a description and an icon to represent the space. The new workspace is then added to the list and you can make it available by clicking Enable Workspace. Once that's done, the new space appears under the Group Workspaces heading.
If you restrict Group Workspace access to just yourself then it works in the same way as a Personal one.
You'll notice when you add a Group Workspace that there are a few additional buttons on the toolbar and some extra boxes on the page. These enable forum discussions and the resolution of sync conflicts. Now select My Workspace from the list and you can start adding information. The tools are:
Dashboard Here you'll find a summary of your Tonido activity, including tasks, calendar items and an information stream. Most of the elements on this page will link through to the event or task, so it's a great way of navigating around.
Timeline This is an information stream of everything going on in your PIM. At the top of the window is a Filter button, which can be used to only show elements of the interface that you're interested in - it's especially handy for group work.
Tasks Tonido's task manager is great. It's easy to use yet sophisticated. To add a new task, select the Add button. You'll see a simple interface where you can set the task's name and Add/Cancel it. However, if you select the More link to the right of the task name, you can also add a Due date, assign the task to an individual and change its Priority. The latter adds a small coloured band to the task - orange for Medium, red for High and so on.
You can mark a task complete with the radio button to its left, and there are buttons for editing or deleting the task on the right. There's also a button called More Options, which enables you to add events, contacts, comments, files and notes to a task. You can even add subtasks by clicking More Options and then Add Task.
Underneath the clean and simple Tasks interface lies a sophisticated task management app.
Calendar This is a fairly simple calendar. To add an event, click Add. Events can have an associated date, start and end times, and a description. However, if you want to add a longer event, click the Advanced Options button. Make the event an All Day one and use the drop-down to change the Repeat option to Daily. Now set it to repeat every day and select Until in the Ends section and input the end date. You can also use the Import button to import an iCal calendar file.
Use the Advanced Options to add longer events, such as holidays and conferences, to the calendar.
Contacts Keep all your contacts in here. This follows the familiar pattern - Add creates a new contact, basic fields are shown and other options are hidden beneath disclosure icons. Once you've added all your contacts, they can be searched and filtered, and the More Options button means you can attach comments and events to a person.
Notes The Notes interface is reminiscent of Google Docs. Simply type your information, hit Add to save it and then use Edit to return to the document. Though this isn't really up to long documents, it's great for project management work.
Files The final option enables you to add files of any description to your server and access them from anywhere.
Sharing with others
We've been exploring the Personal Workspace here, but all these options are available for collaboration via Group Workspaces. The simplest way to share a workspace is to encourage your colleagues to sign up for a Tonido ID. Make a note of this, then hit Add/Remove in the Workgroup list. Scroll to the workspace you want to share and click Invite Contacts To Group. This will launch a new window where you can fill in your colleagues' details. Add a message and either send a direct invite or an invite via email.
Once they've accepted, not only will they gain access to the space, but you'll also be presented with the Chat and Forum options in order to help you work together.
Tags can be useful for sorting through disparate projects, tasks and people. They can be added to any element within Tonido that has a More Options button - simply choose the Tag option and then type the tag name in the text area. Click Add, or hit Return, after each tag name and it will be appended to the record. Now you can click the Filter button, select Tag from the options and you'll see all the available tags as radio buttons ready for selection.
Tonido has a frew tagging system, meaning that you define the tags as you're going along. This is flexible but can become unwieldy, so tag with care.
To delete a tag, just select its link in the Add tag section.
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