FLOSS Weekly 755 Transcript
Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.
0:00:00 - Doc Searls
This is Philos Weekly. I'm Doc Searles and this week Jonathan Bennett and I talk with Frank Karlocek of Next Cloud. Frank started out with own cloud and that evolved into Next Cloud and it has been growing steadily with a large worldwide group of developers. It's open source and it's a business and it's involved in all kinds of unexpected verticals. Some of them are really interesting, like ships at sea. Just a lot of interesting stuff in this conversation and it is coming up next.
0:00:37 - TWiT.tv
Podcasts you love. From people you trust. This is TWiT.
0:00:44 - Doc Searls
This is floss weekly, episode 755, recorded Wednesday, october 25th 2023. Next cloud this episode of floss weekly is brought to you by Bitwarden. Get the open source password manager that can help you stay safe online. Get started with a free teams or enterprise plan trial, or get started for free across all devices as an individual user at bitwardencom slash twiT and by fastmail. Reclaim your privacy, boost productivity and make email yours with fastmail. Try it now free for 30 days at fastmailcom slash twiT. Hello again, everyone everywhere. I am Doc Searles. This is floss weekly, and this week I am joined by Jonathan Bennett, himself from a corner of Oklahoma somewhere.
0:01:45 - Jonathan Bennett
Yes, this is JVNAT Actual on the line.
0:01:50 - Doc Searls
He's actually here. It's good to be with you, sir. So how are you doing?
0:01:53 - Jonathan Bennett
I'm good, I'm good. It's finally fall time, which means it's not 100 degrees here anymore and we've got a little bit of color in the trees, and I'm just loving it.
0:02:03 - Doc Searls
Yeah, it's interesting. Your father South and I am, I think, but I'm in Southern Indiana, and which is the same latitude as Washington DC, which is, you know, it's in the South a little bit, and it's 75 outside a day, really nice, but of course it's been cooler. No frost yet, though Do you guys get frost at some point? Dutch?
0:02:24 - Jonathan Bennett
Oh, eventually we will just not yet. It'll be another couple of weeks at least, if not another month or two. It varies wildly from year to year.
0:02:34 - Doc Searls
Yeah, what I like about Southern places is that the fall colors are kind of on the installment plan. They don't happen all at once. The red maples go off, and then maybe a couple of weeks in the dogwoods and a week and a half the silver maples. You know, we're in the Northeast where I used to live. It's like it's a great big show and it's over in about three days and it usually ends with a heavy wind and a rain and then all the leaves are on the ground and nobody's happy. Yeah, sounds about right. So have you done any homework on this one with our guest?
0:03:06 - Jonathan Bennett
So I have run a Next Cloud instance for years and years. I think that kind of counts.
0:03:14 - Doc Searls
Then you'll have the good questions. Well, let's rush into it then. Our guest is Frank Karleschek, who I discovered I heard talk on own cloud and earlier creation of his, and now he's got Next Cloud. So, frank, give us a story of where well, first of all, if you feel like it, where you came from, but then also where own cloud and the Next Cloud came from, so we sort of get the path here.
0:03:44 - Frank Karlitschek
Sure, first of all, let me say that I'm really really happy to be part of the show again. I think I was here before once or twice and it's really great to be back my favorite open source podcast. So you asked me about the story, which is a bit I mean, I'm not that young, so the story is long. Trust me, you're young, depends, I'm old enough to be like to open source for like close to 25 years. So, yeah, at the beginning, part of different open source communities and projects, for example, kde I was part of the KDE project for many, many years, did all kinds of things. There was a board member for some time and then started a number of other open source projects and initiatives and one was indeed own cloud, which is what's the project before Next Cloud. So, yeah, I want to keep this short, to be honest, because I already talked about the talk about that story already so many times. You can. If you google my name, you can find lots of interviews and presentations about that.
But the quick summary is that I started own cloud alone.
It was first a hobby, it was a side project of my company at the time and but it became clear then after one and a half years that there's really no opportunity to find a company around it to make it really bigger and more professional. Unfortunately, I did a lot of mistakes there and started to work together with the wrong people and it was not really that successful, to be honest, and it went down and 2016, like the core team, 12 people including me the core team decided to reboot it. Basically, that's one of the cool things you can do with open source and free software right, you can just like fork it, and usually a fork is done by other people. In this case, it was forked by me, so one presentation I gave a few times already has the title why I forked my own project and my own company. It's a bit unusual, but then that's what we did 2016 and yeah, since then, it's next cloud as a successor, and it's really happy to say that it's a lot more successful now and growing right nicely.
0:06:24 - Jonathan Bennett
I'm curious, while we're here talking about this, what, looking back at it, because you got a chance to do this what specifically went wrong with own cloud? What could you tell other developers Somebody else who has an open source project is thinking about trying to commercialize it. What's the top three things? Based on your experience, you would say don't do this.
0:06:51 - Frank Karlitschek
So I think this is a very general advice. But if you work together with people, always make sure that it's the right people. And some people say that picking a co-founder of a company is a decision that is like even bigger than who to marry, and might actually be partly true because, like, getting a divorce from your co-founder is maybe even harder than in other areas. So, yeah, my advice would be to really make sure that you really have the right people in your organization and if you decide to take an external investment which we no longer have at next cloud, but if you want to do it, then make sure that you're completely aligned with your investors about what you want to achieve and why what a strategy is. Because, especially with open source or free software I mean open source, free software licenses mean that, like, everybody can use your software without paying you, which is a concept that is like for us here or listeners to this podcast, probably something that's quite natural, but for a lot of classic investors it's like weird.
It's like why would you give away your intellectual property for free? That's a perspective that is just doesn't resonate with a lot of investors that well, and it's a very typical that at the beginning. If everything goes well, then Then this is whatever, and I don't know once the, I don't know. If the growth is slowing down, for example, then it's a typical situation where investors come and say, okay, why not be shut down this community addition thing? It's just wasting money anyway. And because they don't get it, they don't understand open source and free software. So this would be my advice to always make sure that you work together with people who really understand open source and free software.
0:09:15 - Jonathan Bennett
So, for next cloud, what is the business model that makes sense then? Is it primarily, you know, providing hosting, or are you doing support contracts, taking money to add features? What does that look like?
0:09:29 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, that's an interesting question. So hosting we don't, because one of the key goals and the mission of next cloud is to decentralize the internet. So we want to move away from our future where only like five big tech companies has all the data in the world, all communication in the world. So we want to decentralize the internet and for that it's important that we enable, like all the people out there to host next cloud themselves. So we don't really provide any central hosting. This would go against the mission. So you want to enable everybody else to host it.
So we don't do hosting. We also don't do feature development, because feature development I think is a bad a paid feature development. Of course we do feature development, but not paid feature development. I think it's a very bad business model because sure, your customers pay you for the next feature, but then at some point the question is okay, who maintains all those features?
So you want to have like ongoing revenue stream to make sure that you can maintain and update and keep all the features live, and for that I think the only business model that really works is enterprise subscriptions or support subscriptions. That's the same thing that Red Hat is doing, or Canonical, or Suisse, or MariaDB or all the others. So that's what we do. The software is open source. You can go to our website, download it, or go to GitHub and download it, and millions of people do that. But if you're a bigger organization, if you're a government, big enterprise, a big university, big school, I don't know Then it's recommended that you get support contracts from us, because then you can help you to keep it running safe and secure.
0:11:26 - Jonathan Bennett
Now what's? And I know a lot of people that are listening are going to have some passing familiarity with NextCloud, the idea that it's a service that you can host yourself and it's got a bunch of things built into it. It's kind of a replacement for the Google suite, like Google Docs and some of those things. But what are all of the and this is going to be quite a list, I'm sure, but what are all the pieces there? What all can you do with NextCloud? What are things you can do with NextCloud that people might not know about?
0:11:59 - Frank Karlitschek
So good question. I mean the core of it, like the stuff you get. If you just take the zip file or the official Docker image or something from our website, then you get a feature set which is, as you said, very comparable to the one you get from Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, which is basically file sharing files you can share so you can upload and download your files, share it with other people, access it from your mobile phone, from your tablet desktop, like to sync it offline from your laptop versioning, tagging, searching, all the usual things. And additionally you have NextCloud Talk, which is for chat and video conferencing, very similar to Teams, for example, and then you have a groupware component for mail, calendar and contacts, and then an office component, which is for editing office documents collaboratively in the browser together with other people, for text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and so on. So this is, I would say, is the base functionality and very similar to Google, microsoft and others, but we see ourselves as a platform.
So if you go, for example, to appsnextcloudcom, then you see a really, really long list of additional applications that our community has built on top of NextCloud and you can install them as you want, and there is really everything. I mean there's from a password manager to a cooking recipe manager, financial management applications or I don't know like to run your soccer club and application and I don't know all kinds of things. I think you can scan documents. I think there's an application to send faxes. So if you really want to send the fax, you can do that. So that's really a lot. I mean, this also shows the power of community. There are so many features that you can enable if you want them.
0:14:07 - Jonathan Bennett
So you mentioned decentralization of the Internet and I find that very fascinating and I'd love to spend a little bit more time kind of poking around in that idea. Does NextCloud do DNS? Is there any sort of decentralized DNS? Does NextCloud do Tor services? What all is bundled up with that idea of decentralizing, Because there's a lot of technology and a lot of problems that kind of have spiderwebs into that concept.
0:14:38 - Frank Karlitschek
So we decided the NextCloud to focus on some area of the whole stack that we're good at and we're good with the whole user interface part, so with the real application part.
So we don't really have decentralized storage or decentralized DNS or other things, but we can use components. For example, there are some projects that do federated, decentralized storage and we can use them, mount them into it. We can use existing mail servers, for example, if you're a local mail server and, by the way, mail servers are classically decentralized because there's no central mail server in the world, right? But everybody, every mail server, can speak with the rest of the world and we can sit on top of that. We can sit on top of federated, distributed databases and we also have some, some Federation features ourselves, of course. For example, you can have a shared folder between people who are on different machines, which are in different servers. So, for example, if you run an xCloud and I have an xCloud here, we can have a shared folder and everything I put in there shows up on your side and the other way around, without a central instance.
0:16:06 - Jonathan Bennett
Does it use something like activity pubs to the back end? Can you integrate this with the rest of the Fediverse?
0:16:16 - Frank Karlitschek
So this feature we don't use the activity pub. This is actually older than the activity pub standard, but we actually have activity pub also integrated for our social feature. So we have also component connection on social, which is an activity pub implementation, and this can interact with the rest of the Fediverse master so you can have your status messages from next load showing up on master. The activity pub is, of course, a great protocol. I also was part of the social working group of the W3C when it was created, so I was obviously not one of the main authors of it, but I was in the room, so I'm a big fan of the protocols that we use it to.
0:17:04 - Jonathan Bennett
That is extremely. It seems like you have your fingers in a whole lot of things over the years, don't you?
0:17:10 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, I mean, this happens when you're old.
0:17:16 - Jonathan Bennett
Doc claims that you're not old yet.
0:17:19 - Doc Searls
No, I'll show you old. I mean, I've heard and this is true that old is anything older than you, no matter what age you are, and young is younger than you, no matter what age you are. So there are geysers I think are older than me. But anyway, I have a question about actually some of your verticals, if you make that distinction. But first I want to tell everybody that this episode of Floss Weekly is brought to you by Bitwarden, the only open source cross-platform password manager anywhere, anytime Security. Now Steve Gibson has even switched over.
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0:20:53 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, that's quite interesting because when I started this whole thing over 10 years ago, I thought that a lot of companies and classic enterprises would become our customers quite fast. We have some customers like a classic big companies, international companies we work together with Infineon, for example, or with Siemens and the International Red Cross and other organizations like that. But to my surprise, the strongest vertical are actually somewhere else. So the first one is really in the public sector, so governments. So we have a lot of governments as our customers, from the German government to the French government, the Italian government, swedish government, european Commission. We also have a number of cities in the US, for example, and also other government organizations all over the world. They really want to keep the data local, keep the data secure. That's a big driver here.
The second vertical is everything around education. So we probably have hundreds of universities and colleges all over the world as customers, really, really a lot. So someone told me lately that we are the industry standard there, which I find a bit ridiculous because I don't know. I still see like next slide. This is a small startup and it was quite funny if someone so I'm just curious what the category there is.
0:22:35 - Doc Searls
You're the industry standard in.
0:22:37 - Frank Karlitschek
In collaboration software for universities.
0:22:42 - Doc Searls
0:22:42 - Frank Karlitschek
Oh, wow, which? Yeah, I think it's completely true. Most of them still use Google and Microsoft, but, yeah, we are really successful there. And then we have the third vertical, which is a bit different. We work together with a lot of cloud providers, IT providers, who take NextCloud and white label it and give it their own name and then sell it to their customers. So we have an example of, like Mexico, for example, there is a company called America Mobile. They are one of the biggest tailcoats in the world. They supply, like most of South America, and they took NextCloud and white labeled it and gave it their own name, called Cloud Drive, and they provided 20 million users there. And we have something similar in Germany and other places too.
0:23:36 - Doc Searls
Yeah, I'm curious. I've not heard any confirmation of this, but several years ago a friend of mine in the mobile phone business or the mobile data business, which is what that is now, so the real purpose of 5G, the whole push for 5G, was local storage, was local cloud, as it were. Is that a fact? I mean, you mentioned this Mexican company. Are they doing that? Are they like putting sharding up local instances of cloud that have low latency, which is part of the big sell with that?
0:24:16 - Frank Karlitschek
So I'm not sure 5G is a factor on the back end side. I mean, this company they run like NextCloud, distributed, I think, over four hosting centers I think one in Brazil, one in Argentina and then Mexico and then I forgot where the fourth one is and they have classic like fiber infrastructure, right, but their customers, their customers, I think they benefit a lot from 5G because if you have fast wireless network and a good phone and good software, like NextCloud, they can do everything from your phone nowadays right, and you can really run your small business from your smartphone nowadays if you have the right connectivity and the right software. And as far as I know, this really happens a lot in Central and South America using NextCloud.
0:25:14 - Doc Searls
Well, that brings up to me what I'm sort of imagining running a company from my phone, as it were. Well, what apps am I doing that with? I'm just wondering if there are some that where you sell, there are companion businesses that show up that use NextCloud as a back end or something you don't know. Nextcloud is there, you're buying, run your company on this and actually NextCloud is back there.
0:25:39 - Frank Karlitschek
I'm just blue-skying on this, but I'm just wondering how that goes Right yeah Well, I don't know myself because I think it depends a bit on the business, but I mean, in NextCloud, first of all, you have like an address book where you can keep all your business contacts so this can be shared with other people, with other team members of your company, I guess and you can have a nice list of all your customers or prospects in NextCloud.
Then, of course, with the file swing and share part, you can have all your documents If you have like offers going out or invoices or something like that can be there and again synced between your laptop, your phone, your tablet and your team members. Then you have to build an office component so you can actually then also like write your invoices or offers or whatever you do, and you can also digitally sign them inside NextCloud. You can send them out using the NextCloud Mail client. Then you have NextCloud Talk. You can have video calls and chatting with your customers. Yeah, there are a lot of options, but to be honest, I never really did it like that. Right, I'm more old school, I have a real laptop here, but I guess you can also do it from the phone nowadays.
0:26:56 - Jonathan Bennett
So I have been just lost the last couple of minutes scrolling through the list of applications on appsnextcloudcom. There are a bunch here and about every once a screen is. I'm scrolling down through them I'm like, oh, this looks really interesting and click into it and look around, but I have questions about this. So one of the problems that we see Google has had to fix this on their App Store, iOS has had to fix this on their App Store Is the problem of either low quality applications or malicious code will sneak into applications. And then one thing that's still a problem on both of those App Stores is you have applications that just kind of get abandoned and they bit rot. What's the solutions are in place for any of that on the appsnextcloudcom store? Are all of these apps trustworthy? Maybe let's start there?
0:27:52 - Frank Karlitschek
No, okay, I've seen password managers.
0:27:59 - Jonathan Bennett
I'm seeing like there was one where you upload an application and it will give you a checksum on it. I'm like how do I know that's not sending all of those files off to somewhere else?
0:28:11 - Frank Karlitschek
Has this been?
0:28:11 - Jonathan Bennett
audited. Do I need?
0:28:12 - Frank Karlitschek
audited? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's a great question. So we don't really want to do one of those old garden App Stores like Apple and Google, because, well, I don't need to explain that. I mean sure everybody listening to this podcast knows the problem of these like central instances who control what is allowed and what is not allowed. So, obviously, with NextLoud and on GitHub, we have tons of repositories and people can do whatever they want and then develop their pet application for NextLoud.
And yeah, and this has like, as you said correctly, has like different quality levels. I mean, some things are really good, lots of things are really good, but some things are not, and what we did here on appsnextcloudcom is that we have introduced these different levels of trustworthiness basically. So there are some applications that are developed by the core team. They have the highest trust level and, yeah, because they're really reviewed by a lot of people dedicated security reviews, accessibility reviews, peer reviews of every commit and so on this is the highest quality level and this can be fully trusted. This is also what we recommend to our customers. Then there is a lower tier. These are apps that are developed by trusted people, so people that some people know personally, and they're digitally signed. So they are signed and basically it's guaranteed that they come from this person but then really develop independently. So they're most likely fine because they come from good people.
But at the end of the day, if you really want to make sure that they're fine, you should check the source code. By the way, this is a key benefit because everything here is open source and open. So this can, everything there can and will be peer reviewed by other people, and if there's something bad in there, people can notice it and will flag it and will show up. But there are still. Then there are also, like other apps which are just random apps from the internet, those I would not install on a production machine, because this is just called someone published on the internet, same as if you find a random GitHub repository and they thought, okay, let's run this code, which is often a bad idea. That's one of the challenges we have, right, because we are like a super open open source community. Everybody can do what they want. We don't have a world garden. So I think the best we came up with is to have these different trust levels.
0:31:19 - Jonathan Bennett
So I'm on the website on appsnextcloudcom. I don't actually see the trust levels referenced here anywhere when you're accessing it from within Nextcloud.
0:31:33 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, if you try to install it, then it shows you if it's trusted or not.
0:31:41 - Jonathan Bennett
I would love to see, just on the web interface at the appsnextcloudcom, just a button somewhere that only show me level one trusted, or only show me level one and two trusted. That would be super useful here.
0:31:56 - Frank Karlitschek
We are in the process of redesigning our app store anyway, so it's only possible that this feature is in there.
0:32:07 - Jonathan Bennett
0:32:27 - Frank Karlitschek
Like someone tested some cross-site scripting thing.
0:32:30 - Jonathan Bennett
Yes, trying to get some CSS in there and it apparently fails, at least on the web browser version of it. Hopefully it fails inside Nextcloud as well. Yes, so let's see. I'm curious about again sticking with this idea of the app store. We talk about that walled garden. There is something to be said for having a walled garden so long as the door is unlocked, and I guess that's kind of what you have with that idea of your trusted tier of applications. But boy, it's nice to be able to go to, let's say, the play store, because that's where I'm at. I'm on Android a lot. It's nice to be able to go to the play store and have at least an expectation that if an app is on the play store it's not going to break my phone or what have you, although that's not necessarily a safe assumption anymore. I cover security weekend and weekend. I know that that's not the way it works.
0:33:39 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, but I mean you do this as a consumer, right? Because usually the phone is your personal device and you install a game on it. You want to make sure that the game is not really like stealing your data, which is obviously makes total sense. And, of course, nextcloud is more server software. It's more comparable with I don't know, installing another WordPress plugin or theme or just running some Docker image that you found somewhere, and I think in this scenario you cannot really have 100% certainty. You need to have, you need to do know a little bit what you're doing. I think, and we as Nextcloud, we want to make it as safe and secure as possible, but we cannot really guarantee that you just install random things you found on the Internet and it's guaranteed that still, everything is safe and secure and performant and stable and maintained. That's a bit tricky, but we've got to be transparent. We want to be like provide everybody the information up to the source code and then they can decide what they do, sure.
0:35:00 - Jonathan Bennett
Now, as far as installing applications, that is just the server administrator. So someone has installed their own cloud instance or, excuse me, nextcloud instance. You can invite other users onto that, but the ability to install apps is still limited to that top tier, the actual administrator, right?
0:35:21 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah yeah, that's the administrator. That's not and this should be a person. I mean, at the end, as an administrator of an Nextcloud server, you're running a service on the Internet, which I mean, as I said, we want to make it as easy as possible, but at the end, you need the basic level of skills to run a service on the Internet.
0:35:44 - Jonathan Bennett
You need to have seen a command line at some point in your life.
0:35:48 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, the command line. You should know a little bit about TLS, like secure authentication and like deploying security fixes when they're released, and so on. I mean, there's some things you need to do.
0:36:06 - Doc Searls
So got some questions coming up about community and conferences. You had a conference last month which we'll get to after. I let everybody know. I let everybody know that this episode of Floss Weekly is brought to you by Fast Mail. Make email work for you with Fast Mail. Customize your workflow with colors, custom swipes, night mode and more.
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Fast Mail is moving email forward with new internet standards and open source innovations that power many email services other than their own. Don't get left behind by substandard email providers. Reclaim your privacy and boost productivity with Fast Mail. Try it now free for 30 days at fastmailcomtwit. Okay. So, frank, I'm looking at the website. So John and I are both doing this in different places and I see a big picture of lots of people and you had a conference. I'm wondering two things. One is how to go in Germany with your last conference and also how conferences are working for you. How much is that part of the community and how much is the company in a physical space or virtual space? And if it isn't a physical space, where is that? So there's a bunch of questions at once, but it kind of gives a sense of where you're at.
0:39:49 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, lots of aspects. So first, the conference. This is interesting because, yeah, as I said, I started this like over 13 years ago, under a different name by then, but still so, I did the version 1.0 alone. But no worries, none of my code is left, it's all replaced by better code by better people. But I started at the beginning, yeah, and then quickly some people showed up and said, hey, I have a pull request here, here's an improvement here and there and there. And at some point I said, hey, why don't you just come to the office? I was living in Stuttgart, south of Germany at the time. I said, hey, just come by for a long weekend. And then we had to get on it. And then some people showed up I think we were five people at the time and we just walked on the codes together. And then a few months later, I was like, okay, let's do this again. And then 10 people showed up, and then 20, and then 50, and then it's growing.
And then later we called the conference. So it was the next cloud conference and this time I actually don't really know the latest number it was the biggest event so far by far. Think must be over 250 people or something. And, yeah, just everybody came together for a weekend with presentations and then a few days of hacking together and it was really a lot of fun people from all over the world. And yeah, that's what we do. But it's not a classic conference that we just only listen to talks. I mean, we have talks in keynotes quite good ones but it's also like to just hack together, just to improve it together. It's very, very hands-on and that's what we've been doing every year.
0:41:43 - Doc Searls
It's interesting to me that it sounds to me like the company itself. Certainly the conference grew out of a hackathon you had like there was you, there were a few people and a few more people. It sounds a little like a patch, like early, early, early days of Apache, which kind of grew in. I think a somewhat similar way. And so are you a completely virtual company at this point? I mean, you're working out of your house and everybody else's.
I listened to an interview with Matt Mullenweg, who's been on the show before as well. He runs Automatic, which has WordPress, and they're very committed to open source as well. They're a totally virtualized company and they're big, so that's an interesting thing. No name on a building.
0:42:28 - Frank Karlitschek
Exactly. So I wouldn't say it's completely virtual, because we actually have two offices. We have an office in Stuttgart and office in Berlin, in Germany, both, but they're both relatively small. So I think we have like five, six people in Stuttgart and five, six people in Berlin, and the rest of the people are remote. So we are over 90 people I think 95 people by now, and they're in 20 countries, so actually in 20 countries distributed, and that's really our company culture. I always say that we did it or we started this even before COVID or even before. It was cool. Nowadays everybody likes remote work, but we really did this like forever. And yeah, people work from wherever they are, from home or maybe they want to, I don't know. We're from a co-working space or travel around. We have some colleagues who like to travel, to go to different places and work from there, and that's really part of our company culture. We really like that. Do you ever travel?
0:43:37 - Doc Searls
it just jumped into my head. I mean, do you ever like travel together? I mean, if some of you like to travel, you just go hack someplace. I guess this is important because when we had Linux Journal, which we had for like 23 years I was an editor there we would go on these boat trips. I mean we would take. We had these called Geek Cruises. I mean even Linux and other Linux kernel hackers would go on the boat and like sit there and code as well as hang out and other things like that. I don't know, do you ever do anything like that? I'm wondering how collegial it is in that that's a great idea.
0:44:17 - Frank Karlitschek
Now, we never did like a real like boat trip like that, but I know that some colleagues of mine that did like a trip through Africa a few years ago like an Africa hack trip, where they traveled through Africa and with a bunch of people together and then met these locals and recruited some local developers for China or community now and yeah, so this was a lot of fun and we have people like traveling in Japan for at the moment, on China and the US too, we are just yeah, they're just traveling and still working for us. I personally like to do it. I like to travel myself and see different places, and that's something. We just have a company policy that's always possible.
0:45:07 - Doc Searls
I have to say that I've never been to Berlin. The most time I spent in Germany is when my wife got injured at a conference, falling off the stairs.
It's been a month in V-spotting and I've been in the US for a year V-spotting and my joke about German is it took two years of it in high school and I gave them back when I was done, but I did get to play with it a bit when I was there. I'm wondering. There's a dream that I've had I think a lot of geeks who want muggles to be like geeks have which is I want my own server at home, I want my own, or if I want my own cloud, I mean to me, even the name own cloud mattered to me. The people have been talking about personal clouds for a long time. I've been talking a lot lately with people at Solid, which has this idea of a solid pod.
You have a. There's Tim Berger's and Lee's company and there's a company it's a development community as well, but it's not the only one. There's this dream that we have that a number of us have that. I have all my own personal information. I have it here. It's not anybody else's. I have all the stuff that matters to me my contacts, calendar, health, financial, the rest of it. I'm my own enterprise, as it were. But I'm also like here I have a cable company. Years ago I could get a business account and maybe I put up the server here, but they don't even offer that anymore, as far as I know. Is this a pipe dream, or is this something that's actually a possibility, where, where there's a what do? You might call a consumer marketplace here, not just an enterprise marketplace?
0:46:57 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, so we have tons of people who would do that. It's the whole mission of Next Cloud to enable everybody to run their installation as they want. I always use the Raspberry Pi as an example. So a lot of people run it on a Raspberry Pi. I personally not really sure if I recommend a Raspberry Pi because maybe you want something with more redundancy or better IO performance, I don't know, but it works. I mean, a lot of people do this and all like bigger machines.
Some people run it on the NAS machines, which are sometimes more powerful, or then of course, to run it on some other Linux box they have. And of course, as it is with Linux, it's also can be older hardware. If you have. People have some older laptop or something and say, okay, that's like a that doesn't consume a lot of power, so I turn my laptop now into a Next Cloud. So a lot of people do that too. So, yeah, this happens all the time. So we as Next Cloud, we probably don't really want to produce or sell any of those boxes, but that's not really our business. We're more software experts. But if you have any machine which is some kind of Unix can also be a BSD or anything, then Next Cloud runs probably very fine on it.
0:48:31 - Doc Searls
Yeah, the more time goes by, the more all of us have old machines laying around. Yeah, just begging to be repurposed and maybe we can go there or to some adjacent topic after we take a break.
0:48:48 - Jonathan Bennett
So I'll jump in and pick it up. It's funny you mentioned old machines laying around. I kind of have this guideline that I use that so long as a machine is 64 bit and has more than one processor core on it so at least a dual core you can still do something useful with it if you put Linux or BSD on it. And that's probably about. That's about what you guys see as far as the minimum system requirements, I would imagine that's that is the minimum that you would want to try to run Next Cloud on, isn't it?
0:49:18 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, I mean 64 bit is recommended. There are some weird limitation on 32 bit machines regarding file size, number of files and stuff like that, but this should be relevant now. The 64 bit is recommended and, yeah, anything else is probably fine and I mean a little bit of RAM is useful. So if you have a gigabyte of RAM or something, that's good and this should be fine for, like a base Next Cloud. Of course, if you use some of our more advanced machine learning stuff that we are doing because that's one of the big projects that we are basically doing since beginning of the year that we have local running, open source machine learning AI features this might use a little bit more CPU power, of course.
0:50:16 - Jonathan Bennett
So it's interesting you mentioned that that was actually one of the places I was gonna go to Doc. Anytime we have someone that is even close to being an AI company. Doc always has this question he asks and the way he puts it is I want my own AI. I want a local AI that I can just give everything to and then be able to ask it questions, and I've always thought that was a cool idea too.
0:50:40 - Doc Searls
Yeah, I mean to train on my own stuff, not in the world, but uses what is learned in the world on my own stuff.
0:50:47 - Jonathan Bennett
So is that something that we can do now with Next Cloud? Is that something that's coming? What does that AI look like on Next Cloud?
0:50:55 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, that's a good question. So last year already and this was before the whole chat GBT hype we launched a number of AI features. For example, we can do face recognition and object detection and photos you upload, and we do some other things like detect suspicious logins and recommend shares and other things, but this, I would say, a bit more lightweight AI features. Then, since the beginning of the year when the AI hype really started, we were doubling down on that and we actually have our own AI team now working on open source and local AI features. And then the beginning of the year, we launched like features like that.
You have text to speech running local, which can be cool. You can dictate your mail, so chat in the documents and stuff, and also in Next Cloud Talk you can have a transcript of your video calls as text. So this is also running locally quite nicely. Then we have integration for image generation Using stable diffusion running completely local and anytime you can say, hey, here I want to insert a photo that doesn't exist. Yet If you're in the middle of a chat, conversation, brainstorm, you can say, hey, I want to have an illustration of some visualization of an idea, can do this completely local.
And then, since the last 20s like four weeks ago we actually launched our full Next Cloud Assistant, which is using a large language model which is running completely local, completely open source, so you can at any time say hey in mail, generate a mail for me for my birthday invitation, or please summarize this mail thread for me, or reformulate this contract for me, or basically other things. So this is something we have you can already use today, that's fully released and production ready, and we are working on more features. So I would want to spoil too much, but we're actually working on this exact feature that you mentioned, that in the future, you can chat with your assistant and the assistant understands your local data so it can ask a what are the latest emails from this person, or what's the summary of this contract, or what is something like that or what other? What is the? I don't know how happy is this customer if you look at the mail, so we got from them lately or something like that. Yeah, I see this year.
0:53:49 - Jonathan Bennett
Yeah, excellent. I see in the documentation here Two different versioning systems. So you've got like next cloud 26, next cloud 27, next cloud I think 28. But then I'm also saying next cloud hub six is here and that's where a lot of, a lot of this machine learning stuff Is in what. What's up with these two, this two versioning system?
0:54:12 - Frank Karlitschek
Yeah, I think we need to clean this up at some point. So the, the main version, the higher number, the main versioning, is the versioning number of next load itself of the core. Basically Next load core, very up, 27 early this year, 27 point one now the next release will be 28 and so on, but that's basically the version number of the core itself. But, as I said earlier, nowadays we position ourselves more as this suite of Different components that work together and this is what we call next-load hub. So then a few years ago we introduced for this like a special version number, but I don't know if it was a good idea. It was. Actually the idea was to make it simpler. But now the people like you are confused, so maybe we need to change that again.
0:55:06 - Jonathan Bennett
So One of the one of the other thoughts that came to mind as we were going through this you talked about this being, in some places, the standard for education. One of the other standards for education is the Chromebook, and I'm just curious Is there some way to set a Chromebook, or something similar, to Up with a next cloud back end, instead of using the Google back end?
0:55:27 - Frank Karlitschek
Hmm, so something completely the same as a Chromebook. I don't think this exists for next-clot, but If you use some, if you use a Linux desktop and you use the GNOME Desktop, then we really really have very nice integration into into GNOME or also like a Ubuntu. Ubuntu is also using GNOME. So if you Log in for the first time into your desktop, you get a question If you want to connect this desktop to some cloud service and I think you have, like Google and some other services in there, but there's also next cloud in the list and then with your Ubuntu laptop or your GNOME laptop, whatever you use, you say, hey, I want to connect to a next cloud. Then it automatically connects the calendar and the context and the files and Several other services and then you have a little bit an experience like Chromebook, where you have done the local applications, running a book at top of data that synchronized with the, with the next-clot server. It's not exactly the same, but a little bit yeah, yeah, interesting, all right.
0:56:44 - Jonathan Bennett
So we are getting down to the end of the show and there's a question that, when it fits, I really like to ask people, and that is what's the weirdest or most surprising use that you know of that someone made out of this? What's the weirdest thing someone is done with?
0:57:00 - Frank Karlitschek
next cloud Something that was really unexpected to me was to To use it on ships. So people use it on on ships that are, like I don't know, sailing over the ocean and then disconnected from the internet for some time, and then you that, but people still have their stuff local and they can look with their files and calendar, whatever, and then once they're in a harbor harbor again, then that internet connection again. Then you can sync up with the rest of the internet. Oh yeah, that's really what. Once it's not connected to internet, I still have it like local and can work with it locally. There's something that I never didn't thought about when I came up with this whole idea, but yeah, that's something that happens.
0:57:56 - Doc Searls
Are these small ships are, like, you know, like a sailor goes out of a, out of the harbor, in this, you know, and in this ship and you know, and in this, in a small, you know, 32 foot something, or are you talking about something that like could be like a Container cargo vessel or something like that, or somewhere I know?
0:58:16 - Frank Karlitschek
from yeah, I know, from small ships and also in very big ships, so it seems to be for both Wow yeah, and not another. Not an interesting use case, I think is and that's makes me personally very happy that I know that there are some organizations, some human rights organizations, who use next cloud to establish like communication and collaboration infrastructure in in countries, in places that are not so nice. So, for example, if you want to I don't know I have like journalists working in a in a country which doesn't allow free journalism Then next load is often used in these places because you can really have a local install and give people access and you cannot really sense of that from a government perspective. And I know a lot of I don't want to say names now, but I know a lot of organizations, journalist organizations and the human rights organizations. We use like next cloud to work like in a nice, secure way with people, and it's can really be detected by Organizations that you don't want to see. It's another good thing about not being part of some.
0:59:32 - Doc Searls
You know, when one of the big and as they call them now in Europe, gatekeepers, right, that's a yeah, that's what the European law has now designated, the kind of the big five or whatever they are, which they are. And so we always, at the end of the show, we always always ask Our guest what their favorite text editor and scripting language are. You must have, yeah.
1:00:04 - Frank Karlitschek
Text editor. I really have to see. It's still embarrassing or not, I don't know, but I still use like women for everything. Oh, you're in the majority here.
I have to say that nowadays there's not a good reason for it because, they are just like editors that are better in my opinion, but it's, it's no tablet. I just cannot, I don't know. Sometimes I'm still coding and putting something, and then I Reached my nice setup. I have my turtle window here and have my browser there and my nice Editor there. I don't know, it's you some? I don't know. I'm doing something in a command line. I'm just have to have it and not just edit quickly with V. I Always win and then I'm just do everything at the time and I don't use my fancy ID anymore. So yeah, so that's the habit. The only embarrassed, the only embarrassing answer to that question is Microsoft Office.
1:01:05 - Jonathan Bennett
1:01:15 - Frank Karlitschek
Don't know, I don't know.
1:01:19 - Doc Searls
1:01:20 - Frank Karlitschek
Don't know that's scripting linked. Yeah, I mean I don't know. For a long time I worked a lot with PHP and my date shock. And then of course next load is mostly php in the background, the back end. But I have to say, because I'm personally playing more and more with machine learning the last few months, that nowadays do really a lot just fun projects, but I will do a lot with Python, I have to say, and I I like it, yeah, I like it.
1:01:57 - Doc Searls
Cool. So I'm writing at the back channel here.
Just got taught Um we always look, yeah, great, yeah, I was looking there. We get some as we get questions. Mostly we just get snarky comments or people talking among among their among themselves. But anyway, anyhow, this has been, this has been great, frank, I really appreciate it and even though we've had you on a number of times before a number we may not even know, we'll have to check back and see, but it's really great to see how well, how well things have gone for you and and we'll love to have you back and you know, maybe after the next conference where your company's doubled in size again.
1:02:44 - Frank Karlitschek
Always fun. It's fun, by the way. You're invited to burn into our next conference. Great Is it in Berlin.
1:02:50 - Doc Searls
Yeah, when is it in Berlin? When does that happen?
1:02:53 - Frank Karlitschek
We don't have a date, but probably next September or something.
1:02:58 - Doc Searls
Okay well, let me know I'll see if I can find a way over there. That'd be great, great, cool. Appreciate it so great to have you back and we'll see you next time.
1:03:11 - Frank Karlitschek
Thanks a lot, always fun. See you next time.
1:03:16 - Doc Searls
Mr Jonathan, you know, with some of these I hate to end them Because it's a bunch of things that are. I thought I knew about this, but I didn't know it.
1:03:27 - Jonathan Bennett
Yeah, sometimes it takes 45 minutes of the hour-long interview to really get to the good stuff. So I'm looking here and apparently we have Frank gone about every three years on Floss Weekly. He was first on in 2013 to talk about own cloud, and then 2016, about next cloud, 2019, an update for next cloud, and so I guess now in 2023, we're on the update to the update. So in 2026, we'll have to have him back.
1:03:54 - Doc Searls
If not sooner, well, if I could get over that. If not sooner, yes, yeah.
1:04:00 - Jonathan Bennett
No, there's some neat stuff going on here and you know I would really like to see. I know we don't like the walled garden of Apple particularly, but I would really like to see some way to say I only want to install trusted applications, because so many of those apps, some of those integration apps, are so neat. But as I'm going down through there looking at them almost every one of them, I'm going man, I would hope for there to be something nasty in there, or for someone to slip something nasty in there. So for me, for my use, that seems like something that needs another pass. You know, another round of development of thinking real hard about to try to get that just dialed in exactly right. But everything else about next cloud I'm just a huge fan of, and the assistant stuff that they're adding. I would love to be able to do that Because, you know, right now I use Google Photos.
One of the reasons I do that is because there's nothing like being able to just give a receipt, take a picture of your receipt and then, late, you know, three months later, you can say, hey, google, show me that receipt, that gas receipt from three months ago, and Google will pretty much be able to figure it out and show you what you're looking for. Do you have to do that without sending your photos up to Google and on your own hardware? That would be great. I'm looking forward to that.
1:05:21 - Doc Searls
Photography is interesting to me because I have online. I've got like 100,000 photos. I mean these are publicly exposed ones on my various obsessions and I just hope people know. Geology, aviation tech, infrastructure, nothing, salacious Radio towers, radio towers, radio towers yeah that's infrastructure.
I have a whole thing on infrastructure and that's actually about old infrastructure that's going away. I think radio towers are starting to fall like old growth forest. But I'd love to be able to interrogate what I've got on site, you know, in exactly the way you're talking about. Actually, I've wanted a scanner that's kind of like a little ringer. I could run every receipt through. I've got a box of receipts over there and I'd love to run them all through and say you know which ones are the drugstore, which ones are Costco, which ones are what, and even the ones that get online. You know the Amazon ones that don't actually match what they sent you or what the bill or what it says in your credit card. You know, pull that apart, make sense of it. I just think there's just a huge, a huge untapped market there. On the personal side of things. This is encouraging to me that that is kind of moving in that direction.
1:06:52 - Jonathan Bennett
So there's one more observation I have to make before we go. It really fascinated me. He talked about people on ships out in the middle of nowhere. I know that's a bit of a cloud instance, well. So you've got things like Starlink are slowly working to make that obsolete, but then you think about what's the next thing on the horizon. Well, we are, as humanity, we're really on the cusp of sending people to other planets, like to Mars, and you've got to know there's going to be something like if not next cloud, something like it running on Starship going to Mars, because it's going to be the exact same problem. So there's a lot of potential, future potential for that particular idea, and I found that really interesting.
1:07:37 - Doc Searls
Well, we have to put that in the queue for when we have Frank back. Yes, so in the meantime, give us your plugs and we'll get out of here.
1:07:45 - Jonathan Bennett
Sure. So the two things I want to mention for stuff follow my work on Hackaday. Every Friday morning the security column goes live. We talk about all sorts of fun and interesting stuff there, sometimes terrifying, but that's just the world of security. And then the other thing I mentioned is the untitled Linux show and that is our weekly show covering all things Linux and some open source stuff. It's more covering the news and analysis, but it is a lot of fun. But that is a that is a Twit Plus exclusive. So get on the Discord, get Twit Plus, get on the Discord and join us there. And if you're not on Twit Plus, if you're not part of Club Twits, well, why not get on and hope to see you there.
1:08:29 - Doc Searls
And this is a part of the show where I scramble to see what the schedule is for next week, as I always do. Okay, here's who it is Luis Villa. He's a TideLift, that's one word T-I-D-E-Lift, tidelift, luis Villa, and Simon will be the co-host for that one. So that's coming up next week and we thank you for being here and we'll see you then.
1:08:56 - Jason Howell & Mikah Sargent
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