For many years google stood out of the big IT enterprises as an example of respecting their users and embracing open standards. Sadly, they are drifting away from that, and it looks as if they want to get as insidious as the others. Gone are the times of “do no evil”.
Just recently, I wanted to upload a video to youtube. For some reason, it didn’t let me, unless I created a Google+ profile. WTF!!! This is insane. I don’t want your creepy, time wasting social platform. I just wanted to upload a video!
This week, I read in the news that they want to abandon XMPP in their GoogleTalk. This one is even worse. After Skype was assimilated by the evil empire, I was happy to find a better alternative. Long before that, I was unhappy with the closed proprietary nature of Skype. And with GoogleTalk I was not forced to use some crappy piece of proprietary software to chat with my friends.
The good thing about such events, is that every time I learn a little something about the underlying technology. For instance, I just learned about the federated nature of XMPP. So far, I only used it to communicate with people on the same server. So I thought about running my own xmpp server, but then I created a jabber account on FSFE today. With this I’m able to chat with people on any standards conforming XMPP server….. Google is sadly soon no longer one of them. My xmpp address is email@example.com if you want to connect.
Next thing was contacts and calendar synchronization. I used to do this directly via infrared or bluetooth between phone and computer. But when I bought my Android phone, it was just sooo convenient to use the Google services. That even outweighted the unease of having my private data on their servers. So far it has always been easy to download all my PIM data from the Google website to make backups and be prepared to use it somewhere else, just in case… Thanks for that Google, that is exemplary! But who knows what they are up to, next.
To be prepared, I looked for alternatives, to have the same ease of use, but re-gaining control of my data. I didn’t want to set up a box with owncloud or something similar, as I have an ubuntu server running already. It didn’t take much duckducking to find davical. The installation is easy, but I’m sure the debian package could be made in a way that none of this manual configuration would be necessary. It used to be only for calendar, but with recent versions, they also added contacts.
Setting it up in Evolution was also quickly done. The only thing to find out was that apparently CardDAV and WebDAV are the same thing.
Contrary to my expectation, Android 4.0 has no native support for CardDAV nor CalDAV. But the app’s from the market work well. I use CalDAV-Sync and CardDAV-Sync both from the same developer. They nicely synchronize the built in address book and calendar. He promised to opensource them, once he cleans up the code. I also tried Caldav Sync Free which is already opensource, but it currently has only one way sync.
I never used my gmail for much other than mailing lists. For the most part, I use my paraeasy address over imap. It is hosted at a regular provider and works good enough. It would offer webmail, but who needs webmail anyway? I made more than one attempt to set up an eMail server on my own server, but so far I’m not confident enough to use it publicly. From what I know, correctly maintaining an eMail server, and not ending up on a black-list is more difficult than a webserver. This is because spammers are happy to abuse it, if it is configured incorrectly. I tried different tutorials with varying degrees of success. Some tutorials are actually quite intimidating. Now today, I found iredmail which seems to be very easy to set up, but is meant only for freshly installed servers, and has some stuff that lives outside of the repository. As my server has been running for some years, was upgraded multiple times and runs a variety of services, it didn’t go so well. I will probably keep trying, but it has still no priority.
I don’t use GoogleDrive nor UbuntuOne nor dropbox nor wuala nor anything similar to synchronize files. While I appreciate the ease of use, git suits me better. That’s right, git, the distributed version control system, a developer tool. It was not developed to synchronize the home folder, but it works very well for that purpose. Long before anybody talked about file synchronization (other than rsync alikes), I used subversion. I admit, there is some typing involved, but I have full control, full offline history and can compare revisions. That is on any device, and yes I run debian inside my Android phone. The master repository lives on my own server and is protected with a key that is stored on a smart card.
It’s sad to see Google services deteriorating, but there are alternatives…