Updating Owncloud Has Become Really Scary

For the third time in a row I ran into major difficulties when upgrading Owncloud. I really love this project and I can't overstate it's importance to me, but in its current state it won't be attractive to a lot of non-technical people for whom a robust upgrade process is essential because they can't fix things when they break without them being at fault. So instead of just helping to fix the individual issues as I've done in the past, I've decided to describe my latest upgrade experience to an open audience in the hope that some people working on Owncloud realize the state the project is in and finally take some real counter measures.

I run a pretty much standard and small Owncloud instance on an standard Ubuntu 14.04 LTS server installation on an Intel platform. Nothing fancy, just a few users, only the minimal number of apps installed such as calendar and contacts. Also, I have some of the built in apps enabled such as the PDF viewer, gallery and the 'inside document' search. That's it. So I would expect that when my Owncloud instance informs me with a nice yellow banner at the top that an update is available and that I should just press the update button everything works smoothly. Boy was I in for a surprise.

When upgrading from Owncloud 8.0.4 to 8.1.1 as suggested by the updater the upgrade failed with an error message. A look at the issues list on Github revealed a mile long thread of other people who have also gotten the message. Eventually I figured that I just need to reload the update page and the update would run through again and this time it succeed…

Next, all external apps such as calendar and contacts are disabled and you have to re-enable them. A 'nice' feature that Owncloud picked up along the way after version 6.0 and that nobody understands from a user point of view. From what I've seen there have been quite a number of people voicing their concerns over this and it's on the top of the wish list of things to change for an upcoming version.

Unfortunately the calendar and contacts apps were not longer in the list of apps that can be activated. What!? After a lot of research I found out that this is related to an error message in the admin screen that Owncloud doesn't have access to the Internet. How so, I wondered, Internet access is working fine. Again, I had a look at the Owncloud core issue list on Github and found a mile long thread from other people who had the same issue. Somewhere in the middle of the thread I read that putting an SSL certificates file one can download from the web into the Owncloud config directory fixes the issue. Unbelievable but true, it fixed this issue, no more complaints about no Internet connectivity and the calendar and contacts apps were showing up again in the list of apps that can be activated.

The next challenge I met was that when activating the calendar in the app menu I got an update error message. Now what, again no further advice!? Clicking somewhere in the web interface popped up the system updater page again which informs me that the calendar is now updated. Unfortunately that fails again with a strange error message. Again, the issue list on Github tells me I'm not the only one and rinse, wash, repeat will fix the issue. I saw the updater page again when activating a number of other apps, this time fortunately without further issues after the initial error message.

I also had trouble getting the Lucence search app updated. When doing that via the "updater button" on the web interface, Owncloud completely fell over and wouldn't even show anything in the web browser anymore. Again, the issues list on Github told me I'm not the only victim and that deleting the Lucene app directory on the server and re-installing the app fixes the issue. And indeed it did.

After that, Owncloud was finally working again for me. But I can't believe that a simple update results in such chaos!? Really, dear Owncloud community, of which I feel I'm being a (frustrated) part of, you have to get your act together and fix the update process, IT MUST NOT FAIL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES if you want this project to thrive in the future. Forget new features, forget slick UI changes, FIX THE UPDATE PROCESS…

And fix it to a point where an update via 'apt-get update' from the command interface does everything, including re-activation and updates of any Owncloud apps. While this is not working I won't even bother anymore recommending to and installing Owncloud instances for my less technical friends.

3 thoughts on “Updating Owncloud Has Become Really Scary”

  1. Hi Martin,

    (unfortunately) I can fully confirm your experience. Also I have, I guess, one of the most simplest setups: Standard Owncloud installation on a RasPi, only 3 users, only the in-build Contacts and Calendar apps in use, nothing more.

    And I struggled in the past exactly the same way you did.

    It’s really a shame because OC is in principle a perfect simple solution to increase a bit the privacy by hosting your data at home.

    I honestly hope that some people at OC wake up and consider these essential things in their further development plans.

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