Become One with Ubuntu

Update: Ubuntu One is no more. Alternatives for Linux do exist, like DropBox and Copy, and Google Drive for Linux has been in the pipeline for a long time now. Perhaps a new post is in order to cover cloud storage for Linux? Let me know in the comments.

In the last Working without Windows article, I spoke about applications in Ubuntu. Applications are great and all, but what do you do with all of the files you create? Also, what if you are writing an important document and you want to be able to carry on writing it on a different computer, or even on your phone?

Ubuntu One

Well, the answer lies with Ubuntu One. It is the cloud offering by Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu). It is free to sign up and you get 5 GBs of storage space free of charge. You can also rope your friends and colleagues into using it, which can get you up to 20 GBs of space for free!

This little icon in the Launcher Ubuntu One launcher icon is fairly inconspicuous at first glance. It is not until you click on it that the enormity of the thing hits home.

After that first click, you will see the Ubuntu One sign in prompt. From here you can log in (if you already have an account) or you can create a new account.

Ubuntu One sign in screen
Ubuntu One sign in screen

Creating an account is a simple case of filling in your details and entering the captcha code.

Ubuntu One sign up screen
Ubuntu One sign up screen

Once you have filled in the form, ticked the box and clicked on Set Up Account, you will be given the option to choose which folders you wish to synchronize.

Ubuntu One folder options
Ubuntu One folder options

You can choose from the list of default folders from your Home folder, or you can add others that you may have created. When you are done choosing you can click on Finish.

Ubuntu One set up finishing
Ubuntu One set up finishing

When I first chose my folders to sync, I did find that Ubuntu One got a bit stuck displaying a message that read “Getting information, please wait…” However, all was fine and dandy after I closed and re-opened Ubuntu One. It had registered all of the folders I had selected and was busily synchronizing them to the cloud. I suspect the issue I experienced may have be related to the old hardware I am using, rather than the software itself.

Here is what my home folder looked like after the initial set up completed.

Ubuntu One - Home folder
Ubuntu One – Home folder

You will notice the folders with ticks are the ones that I chose. The ticks mean they are fully synchronized. Anything that has yet to synchronize or is in the process of synchronizing will have a different graphic over the top of the icon. The same rule applies to files and folders within the top level folders that are selected.

Now this is where things differ from services like Dropbox, Skydrive or Google Drive. With those cloud offerings you have a separate folder where you dump everything you want to synchronize. This can make things tricky (initially at least) if you have to manually move folders and files over to the dumping ground and there is always the possibility that you may accidentally create a document in the wrong place and find that it is not synchronized with the cloud. Ubuntu One takes all of that confusion away by letting you choose your own folders. You can just keep on working as normal, knowing that everything is synchronizing.

Now, the enormity of this does not leap out of the screen and grab you by the throat… until you install the Ubuntu One software on another computer. I installed it on my Windows 7 laptop. When I selected the Documents cloud folder, it asked me if I would like to merge it with the Documents folder on my laptop. Brilliant! Now I can not only work as normal on my Linux computer, safe in the knowledge that all my hard work is being uploaded to the cloud, but now I can do it on my Windows laptop too!

Out of the other three cloud solutions I mentioned, only Dropbox has a Linux client you can download and install. Google Drive at least has a page with a message to say that Linux is not supported ‘yet’, which suggests there will be a Linux client coming at some point in the future. Microsoft’s Skydrive download page simply directs you to use the website instead.

It’s good to share

If you want to work with someone else, you can easily share folders using Ubuntu One. It is very easy. Just right click on the folder you want to share, then select Ubuntu One > Share from the context menu. Then at the prompt enter their e-mail address and decide whether you want them to be able to make changes to the folder contents or not.

Ubuntu One - Share prompt
Ubuntu One – Share prompt

The recipient will receive an e-mail with a link to the remote folder. If they aren’t logged in to Ubuntu One or they don’t already have an account, the page will prompt them to log in or sign up.

Ubuntu One Music

Going hand in hand with Ubuntu One, is Ubuntu One Music.

Ubuntu One Music launcher icon

The first time you click on the Launcher icon (depicted above) you are taken to the Ubuntu One Music sign in web page.

Ubuntu One Music - Sign in
Ubuntu One Music – Sign in page

You can log in with the same account you created for Ubuntu one. At which point the Music Store displays.

Ubuntu One Music Store
Ubuntu One Music Store

You can search for and purchase music from your favourite bands and recording artists. Canonical have a tempting offer for anyone that likes to download and stream music. The first time you make a purchase, you get their streaming service and 20GBs of storage for free. There are Android and iPhone apps available, which means you can take your whole music collection with you wherever you go.

I found Ubuntu One easy to use and understand. It quietly works away in the background, backing up my files and making them available to me no matter where I am or what machine I am using. What is more, I did not have to change the way I saved any of my documents. That is a big benefit.

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