Personal Computing


Dismal Wizard has been looking for a way to keep all the lame user notes organized. I’m pretty much in the Apple galaxy but what if we moved to Linux? How would I bring along notes and calendars and stuff? ActivityPub can help with that.

Dismal Wizard had heard about NextCloud in several YouTube software videos and got curious. TrueNAS, our file server system, can run NextCloud in FreeBSD Jail. And there is a plugin installation procedure for installation. So, Dismal Wizard had a go and he’s learning what NextCloud can do.


  1. 2023-01-14 Original




I’ve tinkered around with various note taking application over the years. I keep settling on a plain text note taking application that uses the Daring Fireball’s (James Gruber) markdown notation [3]. Markdown is an easily remembered, typed, and parsed shorthand for a HTML subset useful for personal writing that is somewhat structured like this blog.

Mastodon recently brought ActivityPub [4] into the limelight. ActivityPub is a protocol for creating and manipulating content. But ActivityPub is capable of of being the transport for any application that exchanges content with a web server and back end information management. Mastadon (postcard sites), PixelFed (photo sharing), PeerTube (video sharing), and oh, NextCloud (like DropBox).

NextCloud is more than a sneakernet replacement. NextCloud provides most common user groupware functions in an open source operating system agonistic manner.

NextCloud at Dismal Manor

Watching YouTube videos by various small business computer consulting business owners, they were regularly mentioning NextCloud as a DropBox substitute that they used internally. Many shops use it for collaboration because they can host it locally and it provided the services needed to support task management and collaboration.

NextCloud Architecture

NextCloud is a web based application having a web server back end embedded into NGINX and a web UI running as dynamic pages built on the back end. A database keeps the user created articles.

NextCloud Applications

NextCloud supports a number of applications including the following

  • Centralized file cabinet accessible from Android, iOS, and iPadOS clients.
  • Calendar interface using iCal
  • Contacts interface using iCard
  • Mail server interface using IMAP
  • Note taking
  • Task tracking

We have our own NextCloud Node

Dismal Wizard installed NextCloud in a TrueNAS jail using the community-developed plugin installation script provided. The plugin handles most of the TrueNAS details. Dismal Wizard followed Reference [2] and it works.

He provided a NextCloud FILESYSTEM in the TrueNAS storage pool rather than keeping documents in the Jail’s filesystem. This lets us keep the jail’s ZVOL small and lets NextCloud acquire storage as it needs it. Instructions to mount the NextCloud storage were simple and part of the installation procedure in the plugin script.

NextCloud Applications at Dismal Manor

DismalWizard is using the NextCloud Notes facility primarily. He’s customized our implementation by installing the Markdown app from the NextCloud App Store. This App extends the text editor used by Notes and elsewhere to fave Markdown notation [3]. This lets us write HTML notes without the HTML syntax fussiness. Markdown is a prefix notation for a subset of HTML.

A Note about Notes

Files and Notes work together to organize Notes into Categories. Each sub-folder of Notes becomes a category. Assigning a note to a category moves it to that folder.

The Notes Folder Hierarchy

We have also installed the Calendar App, Contacts App, Deck App (to do), Mail App, Mastodon App (opens Mastodon for us), and Talk App. Talk is a functional equivalent of Apple Messages but works within the lifelines.

Talk App showing a Chat session.

To use talk generally, you need a publicly accessible instance and talk participants need to be added as users to your NextCloud. Anyway, given the proprietary chat islands about the Internet, having one you easily administer and control could be handy if you can’t agree on one of the commercial services.

The Deck application is an interesting take on Agile Scrum. You can create user story cards for each task you need to do and move the cards from state to state in the work flow. This appears somewhat useful here in that it is more than Apple Reminders without becoming burdensome. It is good for tasks that may take a few days and needing some working notes while in progress.

A Decks User Story in pending state.

Yep, I don’t have a torque wrench needed to remove and reinstall the mower blade so I send it out in winter for service.

iOS and iPadOS Apps

iPadOS and iOS have NextCloud apps that can be used with a publicly facing NextCloud instance or with a local NextCloud instance while at home. These seem quite nice. A second app supports the NextCloud Talk application.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.