Taking Control of My Data

Posted on September 25, 2015 by Chris

I’ve decided to take more control of my data. Up until now, my setup had the following components:

  • Fastmail to host my email, calendars, and contacts
  • Github to host my blog and my projects
  • Dropbox to keep track of my private stuff.

I’m working on changing all of that.

Old setup

Everything works fine, but not as great as I want it to. There are some things with my old setup that I just couldn’t do. Hopefully this new one will change that.

Fastmail is absolutely fantastic. I used their $40/year plan so I could sync my contacts and calendar as well as have my own domain. I had all of my various email accounts forwarded to my fastmail account (with different email addresses so I could filter them). Setup was always super easy. If you’re looking for your own paid email, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Dropbox to sync data also works fine. In fact, I’ll be keeping it for one application (You Need A Budget, in case you’re interested). But the problem is that its desktop client is closed-source and I end up hosting private data with a private company. This is also a problem I had with Fastmail.

Github also has its own limitations. Since I got Linux running on my desktop at school, I wanted to use git to sync all of my class stuff. That’s fine for lecture notes that I don’t mind being public (and may keep public, honestly), but it doesn’t work for things like quizzes, tests, or grades. I also decided to use git to keep my configuration files in sync. That’s fine, unless something contains a password. Github is great, but private repositories are $7 per month. That’s just way too much.

Finally, if I wanted to do anything more complex with a website, github wouldn’t cut it. They’re great for static sites, but that’s all.

New Setup

I recently just got a VPS through OpenVirtuals that runs Ubuntu 14.04. They had a great deal where I’ll get a decent-sized server for $40/year (It was important that I not spend more or too much more than my Fastmail subscription). It’s been a week since I got the server and everything seems to be working fantastically.

For email, I went with IRedMail to set everything up. It was super easy. I just had to click a few buttons and it gave me a fully function web server with a webmail client. OpenVirtuals very easily set up a reverse DNS for my server and I set up DKIM and SPF with my name server. I haven’t noticed any email getting rejected, so I’m happy so far.

Git over ssh was super easy to setup. Getting git over https with authentication was a little trickier. The reason I wanted authentication was so I could use git to sync with my phone and use Orgzly to take care of todo stuff on my phone. I wanted to keep it private in case I put any personal data in there. But that’s up and working.

What took some more effort was getting a caldav and carddav server so I could also be in charge of all of my contacts and calendars. I went with Radicale as a carddav/caldav server which was super easy to setup. Syncing went off without a hitch. What I realized I would miss was Fastmail’s excellent calendaring application. I don’t really need the reminders and all that, but I did really want the ability to create appointments on the web. Fortunately, there’s a terrific caldav/carddav web app, InfCloud, that I got working. There was some swearing and frustration, but it’s working just fine now. I did look at Baïkal for a server, but had trouble getting it working and the bundled calendar app is a little too limited.

On top of everything, I can now do things I couldn’t do before. Shortly after Google Reader was shut down, I had Tiny Tiny RSS setup on a server. I ended up shutting it down, but always missed it. It was just too great. So now I have that running quite happily.

I have some other ideas, but so far I’m really happy with my setup. Let’s see if I keep up with it.