In a previous post I described how webinos can be run on a Raspberry Pi.  This was a nice hack – and surprisingly simple – but has now made us consider how the Raspberry Pi and webinos could be a great combination for secure personal networking.

At the moment, if you want to share your documents with all of your devices, the most popular solutions are cloud-based.  Dropbox and Google Drive require you to upload your documents to their servers and rely on their security processes to keep your files safe and confidential.  There’s nothing wrong with this approach, and it works well for many people, but does raise fundamental questions about data ownership and responsibility.  If you would rather keep your documents under your own control, what do you do?

That’s when you need your own server and a system like webinos for sharing data (and services) with the rest of your devices.  Set up your own personal zone hub at home, connect it to the internet, and you immediately have a private system which you control.

Why use a Raspberry Pi?

Setting up a home server sounds expensive, but by using a Raspberry Pi you can greatly reduce the costs. A Pi costs $25 (although you will need a few accessories) and consumes relatively little power, saving energy bills. It’s also quiet and can be hooked up to your PC monitor temporarily, saving the cost of a dedicated screen.

The other advantage is that the Raspberry Pi is designed to be extended and modified, making it the perfect platform for home automation. Check out what other people are doing in this area. There’s a strong community of Raspberry Pi hackers out there, and a lot of fun can be had in joining in.

Why use webinos?

Practically speaking, webinos is free and works across a large range of devices, including Android, Windows and Linux. If you have a device with a modern operating system, chances are you can run webinos. This means that all of your devices can connect with your personal zone hub and share services.

For developers and enthusiasts, webinos is also an open source system which can be extended in an infinite number of ways. If you want to automate your home, the webinos framework would allow you to develop your own APIs and then write applications to potentially turn on lights, change your thermostat or view CCTV footage. The webinos framework provides the glue that makes this all possible.

How do I do it?

You will need:

  1. A Raspberry Pi running webinos (see the previous post)
  2. Either a static home IP address (recommended) or a dynamic DNS system.

Once you have installed webinos, simply run the webinos personal zone hub (webinos_pzh.js). From the server you can check that it is working by visiting https://localhost/ .

You will also need to install webinos on any device you want to use with webinos. Fortunately, there are installers for Android, Windows and Linux. Once installed, you can connect each device to the server by visiting http://localhost:8080/testbed/client.html , clicking “Connect to your PZH” and then entering the external ip address of your personal server.

Caveats

Having your own personal server isn’t for everyone.  If you do decide to experiment, don’t forget the following:

  1. Backup your data.  Unlike Dropbox and Google Drive, if you lose a file on your own server, it’s gone forever.  You will need to set up a regular backup solution, and be aware that it might not be accessible remotely.
  2. Server security.  Whenever you expose data on the internet, there’s a chance that a malicious person might try to obtain your personal data or install malware on your server.  Avoiding this isn’t easy: so I don’t recommend setting up your own server unless you know what you are doing.  Firewalls are essential, as is keeping up to date with the latest updates to your operating system.

The webinos platform is also still at an early stage, and several features (including some security features) don’t exist yet. You use it at your own risk – we can’t recommend exposing important information to webinos at the moment.