The DreamCloud Academy Technical Log

DreamCloud Academy hosts a community of friends and supports their activities. Members of the DreamCloud community may also create and share any variety of content and resources themselves. You can check out what our members are up to by clicking on their names on the left!

November 8th, 2019

So, as may be obvious to any recent visitors: Upgrades have happened! I've been pretty happy with DreamCloud Academy this whole time, but there were a few factors that led me to upgrade. The most pressing issue was that I was running out of hard drive space on the server! The library has grown to encompass a sizable amount of material, and when I built the thing originally I just put a 256 GB SSD in it. I love the boot time, but in today's world 256 GB isn't a whole lot of space. My solution here was just to pick up a couple 8 TB drives to gain massive space and also provide backups. So, the NextCloud install in particular stores all of its data on an 8 TB drive, giving me over 32x more space than before. The next factor leading to my decision to upgrade was the I was running an older version of NextCloud that itself had been upgraded from ownCloud. I was enough versions behind that it felt safer and more bearable to just back everything up and build fresh. So, instead of being on NextCloud 11 or whatever I was on, I'm on the current NextCloud 17 and will do my best to keep up to date as things move along. A third factor leading to my decision was that I was previously running Ubuntu 16.04 which, while it was a Long Term Release and I kept it well patched, was not the current Long Term Release (which is 18.04 I believe). So, I took the opportunity to build the system on Debian Buster, which is their latest Stable release. Ubuntu is a branch/flavor of Debian, so that felt alright. Also, Debian have a reputation of being really safe with updates on their Stable releases, so that was reassuring as well. Yet another factor is that I have been following the Freedom Box project. Freedom Box make a Debian based package mostly intended for small single board computers, making it so they can act as personal servers for folks without a lot of admin hassle. It's a pretty groovy project. Anyways, it is possible to run Freedom Box on a regular Debian based server, so I decided to give it a chance. I'm currently using it to help with remote admin, I'm running a MediaWiki on the front page, and I installed tt-rss and SearX just to play around with. It's all very slick to install under Freedom Box, eliminating a lot of manual database set-up and Apache config hassle that is do-able but kinda painful for me. Really, the biggest pain for me was the NextCloud install. It's not the worst thing, but there are a lot of php module dependencies, some permission fiddling, then just set-up for security.

Anyways, the server is now all shiny and up to date. I'm noticing with the Freedom Box updates I might have to be careful about any customizations, in case updates reset them back to default (things like what gets shown on the front page, what favicon is used, other little configuration changes). The update required that I reset everyone's passwords and give them info to get back in. All of their personal stuff was preserved and web pages maintained (which was really only 2 people besides me). I have 7 or so people back in, another 7 or so to catch up with and let 'em know the story. Enjoying some of the new NextCloud features, like the simple Markdown based Notes editor, the Talk chat app, and some of the other ways it supports collaboration. In the end it'll come down to motivation, as far as how seriously any of those features will be used, but I'm digging them. The same goes for the MediaWiki on the front page. I use MediaWiki a bit at work and enjoy it there. I have dreams of using it for all kinds of things here on DCA, but we'll see... So, this has been a solid update letting you know what's going on with DreamCloud Academy. Enjoy!

--Benjamin R. Terry

November 4th, 2019

Hey! I'm just testing my lsyncd here. Why? Well, DreamCloud Academy has been updated massively. It is now running Freedombox on Debian Buster, with NextCloud 17.

--Benjamin R. Terry

February 5th, 2017

I'm still happy to have Dreamcloud Academy up and running. If anything, it is nice to own a bit of internet... a personal server I can log into from anywhere in the world and do a bit of this and that. As far as the accessible html part of the site, probably the most used part is the ownCloud installation. Every once in a while I think other folks log in to poke at the Dreamcloud Academy Library. Personlly, I do any time I need to check out an RPG I don't have on hand. I also use it a bit like Google Drive to keep some personal documents accessible from anywhere, regardless of firewalls, injected intermediate certificates, and other nonsense I've seen out there on the web. Today I added a new user!

--Benjamin R. Terry

July 19th, 2016

Dreamcloud Academy lives! The Dreamcloud Library continues to have new titles added now and then, primarily by myself or Barry. The forums... not so active, though I did drop a thread about the Street Fighter RPG. I'm currently in the middle of a project to publish a "Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game 20th Anniversary Edition Companion" e-book on PDF, and hopefully release the source files as well, in case any other Street Fighter fans and dreamers wanted to play with them. It feels nice to be a key part of keeping a game alive on the internet. I'd released SF20 back in September of last year, and am aiming to get the Companion out by September 9th of this year. Together, they can serve as a total replacement for the game's original books, which is cool. Then it's on to my idea of a "Metro City by Night" supplement and helping Matt Meade wrap up his fan supplement, "The G-File".

Back on the subject of Dreamcloud Academy, I have, since launching and since the last update, had to update the secure certificate for the site. Again, I'd like to compliment the people behind "Let's Encrypt" for how damned easy they make this. It's pretty great. I'm sure that eventually I will be inspired to add more to Dreamcloud Academy, maybe slap on some new paint, even though it can do quite a bit already. If anything, even if I never manage to get the community aspect I was hoping for, it is nice to have a home on the internet you can access from anywhere. The server is mine, running what I want, it lets me do things through it that a local computer outside my home might not otherwise let me do. Groovy!

--Benjamin R. Terry

April 22nd, 2016

DreamCloud Academy continues to live! No news on the tech front this week. We've had a small bit of converstaion about old RPG Campaigns and Characters on the forums. Also, items continue to be added to the DreamCloud Library. I'm still holding out hope we'll have a few more members kick in, in due time. One person has signed up for everything, but been rather busy with life. Another couple people said they'd be taking a look. Also, I know as I run any further "Six Kings of Hong Kong" games, or move onto running anything else, this will be the place I direct people for resources. In other news, I paid off my mortgage this week and I can't help but say it, because "Financial Freedom" and all of that. I'm totally willing to be insufferable about it. I could see maybe feeling the same way about a fitness or weight goal. Somehow I was very motivated to pay off my mortgage and my financial habits were good for getting me there. Even when I was slacking, I was doing well, and when I tried I was kicking ass at it. Hmm, can I form habits on this health front? Or, will there be some other project with a happy payoff I'll commence to tackling? Hopefully! I'll have to develop something. Oh, and the next couple months should have some nice financial slack I'll feel free to play with ( like when I paid off my car), until I button that back up into being smart. Anyway, I should maybe put these kinds of thoughts on my personal page and reserve this front page for news more directly relevant to DreamCloud Academy. Until next time!

--Benjamin R. Terry

April 13th, 2016

Recent DreamCloud Academy work has been more about activity than plumbing and tech. I've had another member log in to the ownCloud side and even add a bit to the library, so that's nice! Aside from that, I tried floating a couple more forum topics. They were totally in the same vein as the one I mentioned in my last post. "List your top 10 favorite Animated Television Shows" and "List your top 3 favorite RPG Campaigns". These topics have yet to explode with activity, so I may need to take another approach. Maybe some Transformers slashfic? I've never read such stories, but I've seen the pictures. It's time to get creative...

--Benjamin R. Terry

April 7th, 2016

In my last update I mentioned how I had started using the ownCloud Agent to sync files directly to PCs. That has been very convenient for me as I've worked on updating my web pages. Basically, I just open my images in and open up my HTML pages in Notepad++. With Notepad++ I get HTML aware highlighting and structuring of my documents, which make them easy to edit. Then I just click save and everything is updated. I really like the way Notepad++ keeps multiple tabs of text documents open, so you just open up your whole workspace and hop to it. Anyway, this has led to me making a good amount of progress on my pages over the last 2 or 3 days. Almost all of my "Six Kings of Hong Kong" material has been added, and I've made solid starts on my "Project Apollo" and "The Genesis Matrix" campaign pages. I've even started using Notepad++ for other things, like keeping track of "To Do" items, structuring how I enter them and using line sorting to organize. You can go a long ways with plain old text. I haven't even dug into Static Site Generators like I mentioned in my last update. Maybe later...

Also, in my quest for site activity, I posted some in the forums. I went with a "List your top 10 favorite Hip Hop albums" topic. Making this site, on one level, is just a way for me to play with some web tech and having a server. On another level, I thought I might be able to make some progress with the gaming group angle. Then, past that, sometimes the idea of hearing what your friends think about various things is a goal. Something about the structure of Twitter and Facebook seems to encourage a certain level of shallowness. Especially something about reposts and memes. Reposts of other people's ideas can at best serve as like a bumper sticker insight. Straw men are set up and torn down, and you see choppy waves but don't know what's going on under the surface. And here I'm mentioning all of this starting from the idea of posting a "My 10 Favorite Hip Hop Albums" topic.

We'll see where else DreamCloud Academy goes. It's not even a month old!

--Benjamin R. Terry

April 5th, 2016

More minor work has been done on the ol' DreamCloud Academy. 6 titles were added to the library over the weekend. I discovered that you can subscribe to the forums via RSS/Atom! That makes it easy for people to monitor the forums without needing to manually stop by my site. Also, the feed is very well formed. I like how it includes comment author, subforum, time, and all of that correctly. I think it would be a nice way to follow a fairly low volume forum. On a forum with hundreds of active users, it'd probably be a bit too much of a firehose blast though.

Meanwhile, I'm still looking at Static Site Generators to maybe automate away some of the manual HTML wrangling I'm doing. I think later today I'll take a look at Hugo . Apparently it will preprocess Markdown and convert to HTML, it has a painless Windows installer (which is rare for these projects, they tend to live in Linux Land), and seems like the wizardry it pulls is all understandable. That part is important too. I just want something that gives me static HTML I dump in a folder. Not some mysterious database driven CMS with obscure templating engines and plug-ins that makes me feel like I'm a million miles away from something a human might type in a text file.

Oh, and I've finally tried the ownCloud agent. As in, the agent that syncs files from ownCloud to a folder on my computer(s). It totally works! The agent asks for the site you are connecting to (e.g., then asks where you want to store the sync'd data on your computer, then, it helpfully asks if you want to sync everything or just particular folders. That last bit is very nice! I don't need to personally sync the whole 32GB current DreamCloud Library to my computers, so I just selected my personal folders to sync. Alternately, people might decide they'd like to sync the PDF folder but not the MP3 folder, or whatever. You can also change your selections after the agent is installed. So, all is well at DreamCloud Academy!

--Benjamin R. Terry

April 1st, 2016

The Forums have continued to see a small bit of activity. I've even seen Barry poke at his site to add a link or two. Today I have also continued to add to the DreamCloud Library. For our members, the easiest way to check out what is new in the Library is to sort by the "Modified" column. I think it is also easier to add announcements and chat in the forum if you'd like a way to check without logging into ownCloud. While I'd like to shake up a bit more activity, I'm also thinking of other functionality I'd like. For example, this very front page I've just been updating with a text editor from the console (nano, to be exact, I'm not a fancy emacs/vim sort, though I'll at least use vim if I have to). Being so used to blogs, and because I'm formatting this front page like a blog (but typing it all manually), I think I'd like to look into some kind of static site generator, preferrably one that kicks out an Atom feed too (because I'm still not over RSS, and it would give RSS Reader users a more convenient way to keep up to date). I loosely follow this IndieWeb community and reading their IRC logs and what they are up to kinda keeps me connected to some net-tech trends and gives me ideas. Oh... on the list of "To Dos" continues to be fleshing out my own page here too. It really is a bit shabby and "framework without juicy content". Me even saying this feels like I should post the cheesy old school "Under Construction" .gif you used to see on all of the sites of the '90s. Apologizing for lack of content is lame! Also, if you're a member of the community... the Library's got content!

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 28th, 2016

A couple friends have now delved into the Forums side of things, which is nice! It is only 3 of us currently registered, but it is a start. I tweaked a setting so people can create multiple profiles for one e-mail address if they find use for it. When I installed ownCloud, I did as they requested and added their repository to my apt-get list for performing updates. When I updated my system today, I see that ownCloud was the main package that wanted to update, so I gave it a shot. It is looking like the upgrade failed, and ownCloud went into maintenance mode for a while, while I worked some things out. Even though apt-get gives you the impression that all of this upgrading should happen auto-magically there are cases where it doesn't. Here, I think ownCloud wants you to manually disable some things before performing the upgrade. Fortunately, no disasters occurred, I'll just have to fiddle and see exactly how they want me to perform upgrades.

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 25th, 2016

Today I invited "Wave 2". This pretty much fills out all of the friends I currently see on Fridays, most of whom I'll be seeing in just a few hours! As for work on the site today? Not much! Since yesterday's update, Barry has uploaded one small RPG to our shared cloud storage area and also tinkered with his personal web space. In a very minor improvement, I have times displaying in the forums correctly. They were displaying in UTC, making the time appear 4 hours ahead of current. Let this update serve as evidence of my continued work and interest.

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 24th, 2016

Only small things have been done over the last day, but I guess they add up over time. I believe ownCloud should now be set up to send mails using my GMail account, so people should be able to do password resets or recieve notifications related to ownCloud if they've put their e-mail address into their profiles. I also attempted to set it up for phpBB, but I don't think the config is quite right there on the mail yet. The web admin for setting up e-mail in phpBB doesn't have an area where you specify using TLS, etc., and Google will balk if that kind of thing is wrong, because they are being sensible and trying to stop people from sending plain text mail with absolutely no encryption.

Also, I uploaded about half of my music collection to ownCloud! I'm trying to keep it tidy, so I know I have some music that was maybe not ripped as mp3s, or I know the metadata is wrong on the files, or a couple tracks are glitchy/skip due to a poor rip, and I've kept those out of my uploads (as in, if one song skips, I've not uploaded anything by the artist at all, even if I have 6 other perfectly ripped albums). The idea is that it is motivating me to re-rip and/or correct the errors. With services like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube, maybe the utility of uploading my music is more questionable than it used to be, but I have at least some music you can't find on those services, so I did it anyway!

Finally, it's been not quite 2 days since I've sent out some invitations. Nobody's done any serious uploading yet, but I can tell some of my friends have been on doing this and that. Like, I know at least someone has visited the forums, though I'm still the only users registered on them. My friend Rich has set a profile pic in ownCloud and at least taken a look around. My friend Barry tossed a little something in his "www" directory. I know that eventually someone will have something to add to the RPG Library, or at least I'm hoping! I suppose my next task is verifying e-mail sending out of phpBB. I could continue to add more functionality to the server, maybe toss DocuWiki or something on here, but I think what is really needed is content using the tools that are already here. Then, hopefully the content can lead to some activity and use. Basically, a site with 1 - 3 well used things is superior to a site with a million things with default installs that no one uses. If anything, the ownCloud install and web space is of some use to just me personally. I can see using the web space to toss RPG things up for people to reference, rather than having them shuffle through e-mails, etc. I have a thread on the forum if anyone has any opinions on the matter, or is having any trouble with the current set up.

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 23rd, 2016

Now I have opened up the shop! Yesterday I added and configured the phpBB Bulletin Board/Forum software on here, cleaned up this and that. Everyone you see listed on the left has at least been invited to log in. Some sites are basically just forums, so it was interesting to add phpBB on here. Also, it was shockingly easy to install! Basically, you create a database for it, toss the decompressed folder in web visible space, then run through an installer right through your web browser. It has that whole suite of features I'm used to from forum software I've been interacting with on the net for years and years now, so it's familiar. I am noticing, though, that there are certain features between ownCloud and phpBB, where I'd really like to be able to send mail out to people. I think that will be next on my list to tackle. I need to be able to relay mail out so folks can do self-service password resets, receive notices about changed folders or subscribed threads, etc., if people actually decide to use everything. That's what makes this a project!

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 21st, 2016

More issues have been worked out! The first issue I seemed to be having was with ownCloud being unable to create new folders. I'd feared it would be something complicated, but instead it turned out to be a known issue that only happened with Internet Explorer 11, and ownCloud already has a fix in the pipeline. The other thing I was trying to do was make it easy for people to upload files using ownCloud and have that appear on their web space. My initial attempts were in the direction of using directory links somehow, but that led to understandable permission issues. Then I looked at rsync, but the issue there was that rsync works perfectly fine, but I wanted live mirroring of directories. Even a cron job going off every minute seemed... both too long and just not right. I ended up using a utility called lsync, which solved all of my problems there. There is really nothing stopping me from inviting my friends in now. I just would like to whip up a nice page of my own so that it is seeded with some content. Maybe a campaign page for my "Six Kings of Hong Kong" Feng Shui 2 campaign, with the PCs, NPCs, and session summaries all right there, with some pics to make it nice.

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 18th, 2016

I woke up very early this morning and got some solid work done! ownCloud is installed and I managed to create a mySQL database and convert ownCloud over to using it (as recommended) instead of the SQLite DB it uses otherwise. Then I went in and created a couple users, uploaded some PDFs, shared a folder, and all of that. I even enabled a couple of the ownCloud apps, but they need a bit more configuration. Overall, I'm loving it. Next on my list is to show some friends some things and also to do a bit of work on making uploading files to web space as easy as possible. I figure there is a proper way to do it with ownCloud and I can skip the SFTP/FTPS fiddling. This is all getting very close to useable!

--Benjamin R. Terry

March 17th, 2016

Yesterday, I finally got this site brought up on the intended domain. Today, I managed to replace the default web page with the skeleton of what is to come. Next, I managed to get HTTPS set up and got encrypted using Let's Encrypt! That was surprisingly easy to pull off, and I commend the people behind it for making it all so slick. An "A" rating on SSLLabs! I think my next steps today will be around ownCloud and mySQL. I had considered installing tt-rss but it is looking like more hassle than I want the more I look into it. Perhaps the ownCloud RSS functionality will do it for me? Then, I can flesh out my personal page with some Bio and RPG related material so people can see an example of what you could do.

--Benjamin R. Terry