Workshop: Opera Unite

Gareth Van Zyl gives the lowdown on Opera's new Unite server tool and explains how you can use it at home

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Workshop: Opera Unite Opera Unite – a compact server that offers a variety of services.
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  August 9, 2009

Opera Unite: A compact server

Opera Unite comprises a compact server that forms part of the Opera Internet browser. It allows you to share data and services from your hard drive across the internet, and all of this can be done without the need to use third party software.

So, how does it work? Well, all the interaction regarding this service is done via a central Opera Unite server. Opera Unite uses a proxy between this server and its clients that in turn avoids the need for any special firewall configuration. (Typically, a user will need to open ports and enable port forwarding to a local computer in order for people outside the firewall to be able to access the server.)

Opera's Product Manager, Navjot Pawera, further explains the workings of Unite to WINDOWS magazine, "When you login to Opera Unite using the My Opera credentials, the authentication request is sent to our authentication server at ). Opera does not monitor the data that passes through the server."

"If direct communication is possible,"Pawera continues, "the proxy passes the guest IP to the Opera Unite host and a direct connection is established. Otherwise, the proxy establishes a transparent channel for data communication."

This technology allows users to utilise services such as sharing files, photos and media; and hosting websites. The vision of Opera Unite then is to develop a more personalised web experience in a world where dependency on agreeing to terms and conditions have become par for the course when signing up for an online service.

Opera's Product Manager, Navjot Pawera, also has the following to say about the value Opera Unite adds, "The development of Opera Unite services is based on open technologies. Open technologies means wider adoption and development. We hope to see Opera Unite grow with services that provide more value for the user and make use of the power of Opera Unite...

The simplicity with which you can enable Opera Unite and the power that it brings, makes it easy to use by anyone, from basic users to developers. Moreover, Opera Unite services can be accessed by guest viewers from any browser on any platform or device."

Getting started

You need to download the Opera Unite build which you can get off the Opera Unite website (.

You will most probably need to download services by visiting this page and clicking on the services at the bottom of the page. But you'll find that your build more than likely comes with links to download some of these services.

Let's get to starting Opera Unite though. You get it running by clicking on ‘Tools', ‘Opera Unite Server' and ‘Enable Opera Unite'. You can also open Opera Unite by clicking on the bottom left corner of the screen on the icon that looks like a fan.

When you start Opera Unite, you should be presented with a screen as seen below. You'll likely have to setup an account first in order to log in. Once logged in, you'll then be presented with an option to give your computer a name. You might decide to give it a unique name, or you can choose a relevant name from the drop-down list, such ‘work' or ‘home'.

When choosing a name, be aware that your username and the name of your computer will become your computer's identity on the network. This will become part of the URL that others will visit when they want to access your services. So, your URL might end up looking like something such as .

You'll also see once you're logged in that you can choose to download more services and even upload your picture. You'll also have links to all other kinds of services that you can access and a list of the services that you are running and which some of your friends are running.

What you should also be able to use is the services buttons on the left of your screen, which you can access by clicking on the ‘plus' button on the bottom left-hand side of your screen and then clicking on Opera Unite Services. You should then be able to open up a whole panel that will give you access to all your services. If you decide to get rid of a service, it's just a matter of dropping it in the trash folder.

Get collaborating

You can now get collaborating with other people or computers in your home by pointing to your URL. The thing with this is that you can point to your URL with any browser, whether it be Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Opera Mobile.

The services in themselves are quite easy to use and self-explanatory, and on the next page is an illustrated list of some of these services. In essence, you can make certain services available either on a public basis or a private basis. So, if you make it available on a private basis, Opera Unite will provide a full URL that you can email to friends and they will also be prompted to enter a password, which Opera Unite generates.

This works for the file sharing, music and videos and photo sharing services. When it comes to the Lounge chat services, it's a matter of clicking on the ‘Invite' button, which will present a particular URL. You can then email that URL to others. Anybody can then access your URL with any browser and you can chat away. The idea behind the services is that developers will be able to jump on board and develop services that you can then download.

Get a website

To get a web server up and running, you need to have the location to your web files, which you will point your Opera Unite web server to. It's as simple as right clicking on the web-server service, which will then allow you to point to properties and from there you can select a set of files on your computer that will allow you to access your files.

You can start with uploading a simple HTML page onto your web server and make it your index.html file, which will appear as the home page on your site. As of the time of writing, it isn't really possible to use some of the popular content management systems on this server. However, you can develop web services that involve a service.

Developing services

Apart from downloading and using services already available, you can also develop your services and have them distributed on Opera Unite. All the requirements for developing services are explained on the Opera Unite's developer pages (

Current Opera Unite services

File sharing

A sticky notes feature

Share your music and videos

Share your photos

Unite's chat feature

Host a website on your computer

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