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Using Ubuntu One Cloud Storage: From Basic to Creative

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Matthew Helmke, coauthor of The Official Ubuntu Book, Fifth Edition and author/editor of the upcoming, updated Ubuntu Unleashed 2011 Edition, takes a quick look at some interesting ways to use Ubuntu One cloud storage.

Ubuntu One is a cloud storage solution created by Canonical, and a desktop client is included in the Ubuntu distribution by default. Most people have heard about using Ubuntu One to store and share files, but many other services are available to do the same thing. What makes Ubuntu One unique?

This article discusses some of the ways in which people are using Ubuntu One, including taking advantage of features that are part of the system's design but not well known, and other techniques that result from some pretty creative thinking.

Getting Started with Ubuntu One

Let's start with a bit of background. Ubuntu One is a service run by Canonical, the company that funds much of the development for Ubuntu Linux. The Ubuntu One client software was first made available to install in Ubuntu 9.10; starting with Ubuntu 10.04, the client is installed by default. To use the service, you need to sign up for an account. You can do this in several ways:

  • On an Ubuntu computer, choose System > Preferences > Ubuntu One. A pop-up window will guide you through the sign-up process, with easy-to-understand tabs and links.
  • On an Ubuntu computer, click your name in the Me menu at the upper-right corner of your desktop and choose Ubuntu One from the pop-up menu. This will bring up the same pop-up window as the previous method.
  • Go to the Ubuntu One site and subscribe.

The program will walk you through the steps to permit a specific computer (or multiple computers) to access your Ubuntu One account. This step is necessary to use the features from the desktop.

Free accounts are allowed to store up to 2GB of files, contacts, notes, music, and so on in the Ubuntu One cloud. You can access or upload items from any Ubuntu computer directly from the desktop client, or from any computer (regardless of operating system) by using a web interface. If this storage amount is inadequate, paid accounts are available that provide up to 50GB of storage, as well as some features that aren't available in the free account plan.

The official website introduces Ubuntu One as a "personal cloud service that simplifies your digital life." It goes on to talk about buying music online with the ability to distribute it to whatever computers you choose, writing notes and accessing them from anywhere, and synchronizing your contacts on your computer and your mobile phone. These are the sorts of things that most people start out doing with Ubuntu One.

In the rest of this article, we'll take a sort of "shotgun approach" to examining uses for Ubuntu One. We'll look at some of the standard uses first and then move on toward the more creative ideas. In each case, I'll assume that you've signed up for an Ubuntu One account and signed into the service using the desktop client at System > Preferences > Ubuntu One.

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