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To run Opera Unite as a web browser, simply open from the main menu as usual—no setup required. If you want the browser without the server enabled, don't activate Opera Unite.

You'll see a regular Opera first-time startup screen with an extra option to activate Opera Unite. If you activate it, it'll open a wizard that will walk you through a few screens consisting of personal settings, starting with opening the required opera.com services account if you don't already have one (see Figure 2). Do check Enable uPnP Port Forwarding from My Router.

Figure 2 Enabling Opera Unite

If you decide to serve content outside the LAN and not use the default proxy setup, make sure the firewall on your computer permits access to port 8840 or whichever other main port you choose, and that the router supports uPNP.

If you want to use the proxy server, make sure you leave the main/proxy ports at the 8840 and 16680 defaults, and make sure these ports are open on the firewall.

Otherwise you're going to have a very frustrating time getting access to any of the Opera Unite servers via your LAN or anyplace else.

The basic webserver/music server/ftp admin pages really are self-explanatory; all you need to fill in are the full paths to whatever directories contain the content you intend to share.

The following setup information is primarily written on the assumption that you want to use Opera Unite as a private content LAN server. At the time of writing, I recommend Opera Unite as a public content server in which security for anything other than what's required to operate the server isn't needed, or as a private server running on the LAN only.

If privacy is an issue for you, you do not want the proxy service running. The problem with it is that every time a file accessed by media or streaming or other fileserver is accessed by a user, it sends a http://devicename.username.operaunite.com/shared/servicename/filename.ext message to the operaunite.com server.

The purpose of the proxy is for people who want to serve content to the world to have an easy way for others to access it. If your content is publicly available, the easiest way to do this is to give people the http://devicename.username.operaunite.com URL. If it isn’t intended to be available and your server is supposed accessible only within your LAN with the proxy in use, it will send these messages out to the operaunite.com server anyway.

While Opera Corporation says that there is no privacy problem because the URLs sent to the server are not monitored, the company could change its mind, or for that matter, the nation of Norway the company is based in can order Opera to start monitoring these messages so the entertainment industry can fish through these messages in search of “illegal” content.

Given situations where the RIAA has taken legal action against a network printer over alleged filesharing and the content industry-friendly regulatory environment, it is reasonable to prefer technological means to assure privacy over promises from a company it might not be able to keep.

If you plan to control access to content and do not want to advertise your site to the rest of the world, open Advanced Setup on the Opera Unite global settings window (see Figure 3) and each individual content server page (see Figure 4).

Figure 3 Opera Unite global settings

Figure 4 Opera Unite content server privacy setup (one per content server)

If you don't want your content advertised to other Opera Unite users, make sure the Make Service Visible on Opera Unite Web Sites is not clicked, and do this every time you add a service. You can also select an alternate port for Opera Unite from the port 8440 default (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Optimized Opera Unite server UI

To access the Opera Unite server UI panel, click the three-lobed tab you see as an integral part of the server UI on the main Opera panel to the far left of the browser window. If the panel is not visible, click the Panels icon on the main top menu bar.

I now recommend that a separate instance of Opera be set up to run the Opera Unite servers (see Figure 6) because:

  • You can optimize that instance as a server that you can have automatically opened on startup. (Note: It will open, but you still have to start services manually—hopefully this will be fixed soon.)
  • You can set up a browser instance in which Flash Player (operapluginwrap) is specifically disallowed by turning off plugins. A Flash client is required to access content on the media server and other services that can be provided by the Opera Unite server such as streaming video at present, and services yet to become available. It is not required to run the server, which is a good thing unless you think having your web server taking up 100 percent CPU until someone gets around to killing the process is a good idea.
  • If you really push a browser to its limits as a browser—i.e., dozens of open tabs, lots of widgets, etc.—you want a browser instance that's running a server to use far less computer resources.

Figure 6 Two simultaneous Opera instances

In Figure 6, the Opera instances are process PIDs 21190 and 21120. Each is running a completely different set of preferences. I mention this specifically because the Opera documentation as of this writing says that you can't run two Opera instances at once.

In Part 2

In Part 2 of this article, you will see instructions on how to set up a separate server-only instance of Opera Unite that can run concurrently with a browser instance. You will also learn how to completely bypass the proxy to the Opera Unite website. Finally, I offer my conclusions about the Opera Unite personal server concept and its implementation.

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