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December 17, 2008 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Dropbox syncs and backs up files between computers instantaneously. Site. Via.
posted by chuckdarwin (99 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
dropbox is like magic. I'm surprised it hasn't been linked here already.
posted by chunking express at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've been using it for months now. Love it.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:57 AM on December 17, 2008


I'm surprised it hasn't been linked here already.

I did look.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:58 AM on December 17, 2008


I have been using it for a long time as well and it's awesome. Have quite a few computers hooked up to my account, syncing without a hitch.
posted by kingbenny at 9:00 AM on December 17, 2008


It's been mentioned several times in AskMe (recently), but I don't remember seeing it on the blue before. Anyway, now I'm going to check it out.
posted by trip and a half at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2008


Dumbing Down the Cloud.
posted by chunking express at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I've been using it for months as well and I love it. Keeps my mac and pc so synced that they're basically spooning.
posted by ourobouros at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2008


Say goodbye to emailing scripts back and forth from work to home!

Wait....Windows/Mac only. Pfff. Say, couldn't the gmail/nfs hack thing do this?
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2008


Another satisfied customer!
posted by zpousman at 9:09 AM on December 17, 2008


Thanks for pointing out that essay, chunking. Great stuff.
posted by boo_radley at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2008


I picked this up off a Lifehacker "Best Free Downloads '08" yesterday, and I was trying to figure out if it offers any advantages over having FireFTP and my own site. So far, not really.
posted by Shepherd at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2008


Awesome. Just downloaded it, thanks.
posted by chococat at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2008


DU, there is a linux client as well. They released it a little while ago. It might be more 'beta' than the other parts of their system though.
posted by chunking express at 9:23 AM on December 17, 2008


DU: "Wait....Windows/Mac only. Pfff."

Dropbox does support Linux now, that Lifehacker is a bit out of date.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2008


Shepherd, well besides the fact it shows up as an other drive in your file system, and keeps everything synced automagically, and maintains revisions automagically, and doesn't involve manually moving files between an FTP site, yeah, it's basically the same shit with a different name.
posted by chunking express at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Uh, the dropbox site says it's also available for linux.
posted by maxwelton at 9:27 AM on December 17, 2008


I gave up Mozy and switched to this months ago. Mozy would randomly stop backing up. This never does.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2008


If you're a Linux user, you'll probably feel comfortable using one of their beta builds, which have fixed quite a few issues in linux. Change Log with download links.
posted by borkencode at 9:29 AM on December 17, 2008


My use case for the cloud hasn’t changed in years. I want a single folder sitting somewhere in the cloud that I can transparently access from any computer… anywhere. I’m not greedy; I’ll make it even simpler: I’ll only put documents in that folder. No applications, no preferences, just my well-defined documents.

While I agree with this, the whole "cloud" metaphor always sets off huge klaxons and spinning red lights in my head. I don't want my data off in the amorphous construct that is The Tubes, I want it on this server in this data share, and even better if I control it. Drop Box seems to at least let you know where your stuff is, to an extent.
Images like this scare me. I understand that most of it is market-speak and consumerized technical terms, but why can't we skip the cloud and go straight to the server?
posted by niles at 9:29 AM on December 17, 2008


Oh yeah, I see it runs on Linux. Although: dropboxd is a per-user closed-source daemon process that makes sure your $HOME/Dropbox directory is properly synchronized with your other computers and our secure backend.

Yeah, I'm thinking....no.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's an absolutely superb service. I've been cautious so far, only using it for work stuff (text files and PDFs, mostly), but it's worked so flawlessly for the past few months that I'm planning to Dropbox my whole home folder.

Wait....Windows/Mac only.

There's a Linux client too, but it's only available in the forums for now. In my experience, it's still a wee bit buggy compared to the OS X version - on my Eee PC running Ubuntu it constantly claims to be downloading files, even though everything is in sync - but it's safe to use.
posted by jack_mo at 9:32 AM on December 17, 2008


I also switched from Mozy to Dropbox. It's fantastic!
posted by sveskemus at 9:33 AM on December 17, 2008


Drop Box seems to at least let you know where your stuff is, to an extent.

Not to mention that all your stuff is on your own computer(s) as well as in the 'cloud'.
posted by jack_mo at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the Terms of Use. The bold is my addition.

...Consent to Access Your Files
BY UTILIZING THE SITE, CONTENT, SERVICES AND/OR YOUR FILES, YOU CONSENT TO ALLOW DROPBOX TO ACCESS YOUR COMPUTER AND/OR ANY FILES THAT ARE PLACED IN THE ‘MY DROPBOX,’AND/OR ‘DROPBOX’ FOLDERS. BY PLACING FILES IN YOUR SHARED AND/OR PUBLIC FOLDERS, YOU CONSENT TO SHARE ACCESS TO THE CONTENT OF THOSE FOLDERS WITH OTHER DROPBOX USERS AND/OR THE PUBLIC.

Your Files
“Your Files” or “User Files” as used in this Agreement means the information contained in the files that you or other users upload, download and access through the Site and Services.

While you own the content contained in Your Files, you hereby grant all other Dropbox users a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use and exploit Your Files in your public folder. In addition, you hereby grant Dropbox users who have been given access to your shared folder a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use and exploit Your Files in your shared folder. You represent and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents and permissions to grant these licenses.


Just sayin'.
posted by willmize at 9:41 AM on December 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


Drop Box seems to at least let you know where your stuff is, to an extent.
Not to mention that all your stuff is on your own computer(s) as well as in the 'cloud'.


That is important. I'm not exactly a newbie, but I'm still not trusting my files to any Web 2.0 whizzy startup that'll vanish tomorrow the way 95% (more?) of them do. If it's an optional convenient service, like this (if it vanishes, I still have my two copies), then fine. Adoption is a lot more likely this way.

Sadly, security concerns. I doubt Dropbox would handle "syncing" my 16Gb encrypted disk image every day.
posted by rokusan at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2008


I've been using the GTK client without a hitch. It integrates nicely with Nautilus and even has a notification icon.

Great for sharing music. Mission-critical stuff, not so much.
posted by swift at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2008


willmize: so.. don't put stuff in your public folder you don't want others to have/see.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


While you own the content contained in Your Files, you hereby grant all other Dropbox users a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use and exploit Your Files in your public folder.

Well, you would have to, right? Otherwise you could post something in the public folder and then sue your buddy (and probably Dropbox, too) for downloading it.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


...but I'm still not trusting my files to any Web 2.0 whizzy startup that'll vanish tomorrow the way 95% (more?) of them do.

Happens, even to some that have been around for ages.
posted by mandal at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2008


For me, Dropbox is like the USB stick I'd never forget to carry with me.

Shame their Linux client requires Nautilus (this would be handy on a headless server) and is closed source. Strikes me as the sort of thing you could do with ssh, and be able to trust the security.
posted by scruss at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It kills me that nobody ever what jurisdiction their data is being stored in when they use services like this.
posted by mhoye at 10:00 AM on December 17, 2008


My impression is that a cloud is a transparent set of computing clusters, like Google uses: figuring out which actual server has responded to a question might be impossible from the outside. If you were using one specific server, then if it had problems, you might not be able to do anything useful at all.

If you're worried about the licenses or the long-term viability of Dropbox, check out Jungle Disk instead. It uses Amazon S3 for storage, & it presents itself as a local drive. I believe it syncs continually. Sharing files with other people would require multiple licenses ($20) of Jungle Disk, & you won't be able to step back to restore files, like in the article chunking express pointed out.

rokusan - I think JD has a 5 gigabyte max, due to S3 limitations.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:02 AM on December 17, 2008


I loves me some DropBox.

Doubleplus good is that you don't actually need to install the client to access your files. There's a web front-end fro which you can grab your files. I use this when I'm connected via VPN to customers and their VPN doesn't support file transfers.

DropBox is full of awesome.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:10 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Looks like dropbox is using Amazon S3 for storage also. My reading of the S3 functionality is that the 5GB limit is per object (i.e. file), but users can store unlimited objects (for a fee).
posted by hoppytoad at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2008


..Consent to Access Your Files
BY UTILIZING THE SITE, CONTENT, SERVICES AND/OR YOUR FILES, YOU CONSENT TO ALLOW DROPBOX TO ACCESS YOUR COMPUTER AND/OR ANY FILES THAT ARE PLACED IN THE ‘MY DROPBOX,’AND/OR ‘DROPBOX’ FOLDERS. BY PLACING FILES IN YOUR SHARED AND/OR PUBLIC FOLDERS, YOU CONSENT TO SHARE ACCESS TO THE CONTENT OF THOSE FOLDERS WITH OTHER DROPBOX USERS AND/OR THE PUBLIC.

Your Files
“Your Files” or “User Files” as used in this Agreement means the information contained in the files that you or other users upload, download and access through the Site and Services.

While you own the content contained in Your Files, you hereby grant all other Dropbox users a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use and exploit Your Files in your public folder. In addition, you hereby grant Dropbox users who have been given access to your shared folder a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use and exploit Your Files in your shared folder. You represent and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents and permissions to grant these licenses.

Just sayin'.


I underlined, italicized and bolded the parts that you didn't understand because you've never used the service. There are private folders that are only available to you on the site and public folders where you can share out data to other users.

Just sayin'.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:21 AM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'e been using Dropbox since March. Love it. I use it all the time for sharing source code with clients and web designers (when source control isn't always an option). We used Dropbox on the iPhone Obama app project to coordinate source code between 10 or so folks across the country (we also used svn a lot too - dropbox mainly used to get test binaries to everyone).

I share about 10 dropboxes with friends and clients right now. It's a great way to get source code (sample code, builds) and files to other people. I've totally given up on sending files via instant messengers (too unreliable).

Dropbox is teh awesome. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It needs a bit more functionality - I've had a friend overload my dropbox limit by filling our shared directory with MP3s. It would be nice to limit the size of particular shared directories. But other than that dropbox is wonderful.

Oh! And it causes Mac OS X's Finder to crash once upon reboot. But other than that too dropbox is still wonderful.
posted by schwa at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not exactly a newbie, but I'm still not trusting my files to any Web 2.0 whizzy startup that'll vanish tomorrow the way 95% (more?) of them do.

This is why I've been endlessly contemplating - but not committing to - some sort of cloud back-up/sync thing. But I've really liked what I've read here and elsewhere about Dropbox, so maybe I'll see about going steady. Thanks for the post.
posted by rtha at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2008


I underlined, italicized and bolded the parts that you didn't understand because you've never used the service. There are private folders that are only available to you on the site and public folders where you can share out data to other users.

I fail to see why the Dropbox company should have any say whatsoever in how things to which I own copyrights are licensed. Why is this crap even in their agreement? This is not their concern, just like it's not the concern of Akamai, CacheFly, or any other file hosting service.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:44 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh sorry, I forgot to add "just sayin'" at the bottom. That's how it works around here, right? Not a real rebuttal without some snarky bullshit.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have my palm pilot profile and other personal stuff on a small truecrypt volume - has anyone tested it with truecrypt files? It claims to backup on a block level, only transferring changed parts... would this work with an encrypted volume file in the dropbox folder?
posted by fleetmouse at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2008


What I want to know is how much will the subscription fee be?

They can't keep offering it for free forever, bandwidth and storage costs money. And, I'll admit that if they ever get a good Linux client going I'd be willing to pay for the service.

But what I *don't* want to do is get dependent on them, and then find out that their eventual subscription fee is not something I want to pay.

So, is it going to be $5/month? $10/month? $1/month? $20/month?

They aren't talking, and that bothers me.
posted by sotonohito at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


hoppytoad: Whoops, I phrased that badly. In rokusan's case, there's a 16 gigabyte file, which I don't think Jungle Disk could manage, although it is handling multi-terabyte collections of files.

Dropbox does have some potential income, at least: "... you’ll be able to buy a 50GB Dropbox for $9.99/month, or $99.99/year. Don’t worry — the free 2GB accounts will always be free, and you can keep the amount of space you had in the beta." The beta accounts offered 5GB, so they didn't hit the S3 limitation.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:51 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


@fleetmouse I dont know anything about truecrypt - but if truecrypt is just a disk image file then it should work fine. I've used dropbox with disk image files on OSX all the time. They're just plain data files really.

Not sure if you might have problems syncing a file that is open though (i.e. a mounted disk image file)

There _are_ some issues with extended attributes (old school resource forks) on Mac OS X though. So being careful and testing important files is vital. I use Dropbox as a file sync tool - not a backup solution. I think personally that dropbox isn't well suited to be an online backup YMMV. So I am not trusting dropbox with anything vitally important that isn't already backed up N times over using other means.
posted by schwa at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2008


Those paid plans are live. (Login required. Bugmenot works.)
posted by Pronoiac at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeh, jack_mo and other Mac types: don't put your whole home folder in there: dropbox silently mangles the shit out of resource forks (so fonts, weblinks etc all die) and packages (like .apps).
posted by bonaldi at 11:00 AM on December 17, 2008


I think personally that dropbox isn't well suited to be an online backup YMMV.

Can you talk about why, schwa?
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on December 17, 2008


@rtha, I just don't think it was ever designed for that, at least not for backing up entire drives. I've accidentally expanded huge tarballs inside my shared dropbox folders and the syncing gets rather intense.
posted by schwa at 11:07 AM on December 17, 2008


After reading schwa's blog link, I'm curious to know if dropbox handles streams in ntfs.
posted by boo_radley at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2008


Yeah, I'm not thinking in terms of backing up an entire drive, but more in terms of making sure certain digital photos and some text files will still exist even if my internal hd and backup drives all go south simultaneously. Hmmmm.
posted by rtha at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2008


How does Dropbox solve the screw-me sync scenario? To date, Dropbox hasn’t said a thing to me. It hasn’t given me a single decision to screw up. Dropbox is very smart because it never asks you a thing about sync or any file operation. This is the brilliance: Dropbox knows that any question is a chance to make a wrong decision. And a chance to make a wrong decision is a chance to erode trust.

NICE link, ce.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2008


would this work with an encrypted volume file in the dropbox folder?

That's what stops me from using it or any of these things much. My files are all on encrypted volumes, which present as single large (8Gb each) files that I back up daily (cron job) by copying the single whole file to another drive. Once and awhile, I burn DVDs and put them somewhere else.

Even the smallest change to a text file on a volume, though, would change the whole overall volume, which a service like this only sees as a single large file, so that'd be 8 or 16Gb back and forth for every tiny change.

If I gave up encryption and sync'd all my wide-open files individually it would work. But, no. Between my privacy and some of my clients' data, no way I could do that.

This DropBox one seems cool, though, so I'll install it to play with, but I can't see using it for anything important unless you really do not mind publishing it to the world.

Re-arranging one's digital life to have a single SMALL encrypted volume of key-key-information instead of months of cruft kicking around would work, though. Maybe next year.
posted by rokusan at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2008


More in terms of making sure certain digital photos and some text files will still exist even if my internal hd and backup drives all go south simultaneously. Hmmmm.

Some $5 hosting account somewhere and an FTP program can cover that. They might vanish too, but it's just a backup, right? If they vanish, get a new one. Or, you know, a safe deposit box.

The worry is more for people who use "in the cloud" as their primary data store.
posted by rokusan at 11:35 AM on December 17, 2008


This would be handy for sending things from work to my home machine, but all "personal network storage" sites are blocked here. Oh well.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2008


I trust Amazon S3's robustness against hardware failure much further than most hosting services.

Jungle Disk uses a server (running in EC2) to merge in block-level updates, which elegantly streamlines backing up encrypted volumes, mail folders, etc. I imagine Dropbox is already doing or could do something similar.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:52 AM on December 17, 2008


Yeah, I'm not thinking in terms of backing up an entire drive, but more in terms of making sure certain digital photos and some text files will still exist even if my internal hd and backup drives all go south simultaneously. Hmmmm.
posted by rtha at 2:18 PM on December 17


As I understand it, there are other services that US Amazon s3 that are more suited for use as a backup. Dropbox seems more like a network replacement for a USB drive that has your working files on it.

In general, the whole trend towards cloud computing seems eerily reminiscent of the mainframe model paired with WYSIWYG and slightly less dumb terminals. Also, given the eagerness with which companies like google tied targeted advertising to the text content of your email convinces me that any company that pushes for cloud computing for documents generally is doing so in order to monetize your content in some way. Store some photos in a folder and it will read the EXIF to determine the camera make and model so it can sell you a lens. Or detect the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, and the Coliseum in the photos themselves, and conclude that you like travel and show you travel ads.

Technologically, the idea seems great, but there are too many issues with privacy, or more specifically to many unresolved issues over the rights to view private content, for me to want to embrace the idea. Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be any interest in engaging corporations on this issue in a serious way.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2008


Mosso.com offers S3-like online storage for $0.15/Gb/mo. Jungle disk is going to be releasing software for Cloudfiles soon supposedly.
posted by benzenedream at 11:58 AM on December 17, 2008


Expanding on my comments above, what I think I don't like about Dropbox -- compared to having my own webspace and FireFTP one click away -- is that Dropbox doesn't seem to copy files on my HD in real time, but rather just hold them. So they exist only on a third-party company's virtual drive, which makes me a bit nervous.

I'm aware that I can always just copy and paste them onto my local HD to have static backups of the Dropbox-only material, but then I'm just replicating the FireFTP work in reverse -- rather than copying local drive material to FTP space, I'm copying FTP (essentially) material to local drive space.

The thing is, I'm only about 33% up on how all this really works, so I could be wrong about this. There might be a way to use Dropbox to simultaneously update a local file so that if Dropbox goes down, or my Internet connection fails, or whatnot, I still have access to the latest version of my work. This is where I reach the periphery of what I understand. If I am wrong, I'd love to be corrected on this, because that would be something I'd love to have at my disposal.

Regarding privacy/access, I don't know if there's a tangible difference between letting Dropbox "have" my files in a dropbox and letting Dreamhost "have" my files in a dreamhost account. Is one method stronger than the other in terms of letting a company control my data and in terms of security?
posted by Shepherd at 12:02 PM on December 17, 2008


mhoye said: It kills me that nobody ever [cares to ask] what jurisdiction their data is being stored in when they use services like this.

mhoye, why on earth would you care? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter one bit.

Hint: If you haven't completed 1L at an accredited law school, please don't use terms of art. You probably don't know what they mean.
posted by jock@law at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2008


The worry is more for people who use "in the cloud" as their primary data store.

You can't actually do that with dropbox though. The files live on every computer you sync it to. As others have said, it's really a replacement for a USB key.
posted by chunking express at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2008


mhoye, why on earth would you care? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter one bit.

Different countries have different privacy laws. I'd prefer to use a service that stores their data in Canada than in the US for example.
posted by chunking express at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2008


Metafilter: Just sayin'.
posted by saul wright at 12:07 PM on December 17, 2008


Thank you all for providing more food for thought wrt offsite storage/cloud syncing etc.; all of this is making me realize that I need to think more about what I want (pure backup? syncing? available versions going back X amount of time?), and what I'm will to pay/risk to get it.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wasn't trying to be snarky, or a smart ass - I know that many folks out there are actually very sensitive to Terms of Use. How their documents are stored, how they might be used, or be open to being used. I just wanted to bring out salient points that they might overlook or want brought to their attention. I guess I couldn't figure out why certain phrases or clauses were in there. To cover their ass or for future use, I don't know. I'm not that smart. I just carry around a 2GB USB drive and use that.
posted by willmize at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2008


chunking, even if it stored its data in Canada rather than the U.S., the data would remain discoverable in U.S. courts, and a failure to comply with a discovery order would remain unlikely.

I suppose if you're Canadian and your data is stored in Canada and you're sure the connection between you and your data is never routed through the U.S. and you think the U.S. government is after you, then you might have an argument. However, those are a lot of ifs, at least two of them fairly unlikely.
posted by jock@law at 12:18 PM on December 17, 2008


benzenedream - I'm missing something, possibly: the Mosso Cloudfiles seem to offer slightly cheaper storage after 30TB, but pricier bandwidth, compared to Amazon S3. Pricing: Cloudfiles, S3

Note that Rackspace acquired Jungle Disk in October. I'm not familiar with them.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:19 PM on December 17, 2008


Edit: Probably discoverable. Suggesting that it's definitely discoverable is a bit of an overreach. My apologies.
posted by jock@law at 12:20 PM on December 17, 2008


After reading schwa's blog link, I'm curious to know if dropbox handles streams in ntfs.

No, none of these services preserve that, to the best of my knowledge. That said, who's storing stuff in NTFS streams beside rootkit writers?

why on earth would you care? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter one bit.

A few people do care about this, in my experience. It's why Google Apps offers storage guarantees for US and Canada for Premium customers - if you're a US customer, you may have requirements that force you to use US storage.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:32 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, it's been taking me months to get my drive synced.%(#
!*(3%((6(@*5#*#*

crap, I forgot to turn off call waiting, brb..

+++
OK

ATH
NO CARRIER
posted by crapmatic at 12:36 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even the smallest change to a text file on a volume, though, would change the whole overall volume, which a service like this only sees as a single large file, so that'd be 8 or 16Gb back and forth for every tiny change.

Dropbox does use block level tracking, so if the encrypted file system is encrypted as a whole, you are out of luck for any service like this, but if the encrypted file is a collection of the result of encrypting each individual file, then you would be in luck.
posted by borkencode at 12:37 PM on December 17, 2008


I've actually just finished writing an implementation for our company that does a similar process, but does it using python and ftp. More of an automated file delivery and pickup.

There is another company, Topia Technologies, that has a similar product called "Skoot" which was intentionally designed to be secure and meet DOD standards (which is one of their bigger clients). Files are encrypted client side before uploading, and ensure that only other people with whom you have shared the key can pull them back down.

Very neat, for folks who want the security focused version of the same idea.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:41 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Whatever happened to WebDAV?

Every major operating system supportings native WebDAV integration into their File Explorer/Browser.

Yet no one, no one provides a decent cloud-based storage option. Everything out there requires YACU (Yet Another Client Utility)... I hate having active code running which duplicates functionality built into my operating system.

Damn kids, get offa mah lawn...
posted by jkaczor at 12:44 PM on December 17, 2008


Whatever happened to WebDAV?
Uh, it's shit?

Or at least, given that the majority of us are still bandwidth-constrained, it has a less-than-desirable user experience. Mount a WebDAV disk on a Mac and you're waiting for the files to appear from the server, then watching the Finder struggle to update all the icon previews and so on. Painful, even in the iDisk form which has a degree of local caching. I gather the Windows experience is much the same.

Dropbox, by contrast, is seamless. You're dealing with local files all the time, so it's fast and does what you'd expect.
posted by bonaldi at 12:48 PM on December 17, 2008


jkaczor: WebDAV is close, but not quite, to what dropbox does.
posted by boo_radley at 12:53 PM on December 17, 2008


I would posit that WebDAV itself is not shit, but it's hard to find an implementation of WebDAV that isn't. It could be argued that the two are not separate ideas, of course.

Metafilter: Just sayin'.

Made my day. Just sayin'.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:14 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ok bonaldi - guess I am spoiled by the riches of bandwidth and corporate/Enterprise connectivity, I will grant you that.

I like the concept - but the big failing (IMO) is that I cannot control where the server-side cache exists. Sure, I might like to have a cloud-based storage - but I also want a private end-point, stored in my own environment. I'm sorry - but I refuse to trust any of my data to the "cloud". Guess I am an old-fuddy-duddy, but sorry... it's my data, I will be the one impacted if it gets compromised or corrupted or "dissapears overnight", so I will be the one responsible for it.
posted by jkaczor at 1:15 PM on December 17, 2008


My band has been using this for a few months now. I can lay down a track in Logic and throw it the drop box for my drummer to play around with and by the time we get together we've got a new song to play.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:42 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


@Mikey-San is spot on. WebDAV as a protocol isn't shit. In fact it is pretty lightweight and even kind of graceful. But the Finder's WebDAV implementation is complete and utter shit. Speaking as someone in the middle of writing a WebDAV server…
posted by schwa at 1:54 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


@bonaldi, as an example how shit the finder is - as part of working on my WebDAV server (for the iPhone) just to edit a file (using TextEdit) mounted over WebDAV OSX will make about 8 or so WebDAV transactions. Most of those aren't really necessary. OSX's WebDAV implementation is really really noisy.
posted by schwa at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2008


Pepsi Blue much?

disclaimer: I work for drop.io, which is kinda sorta a little bit like dropbox so maybe I'm not totally unbiased here
posted by teferi at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


bonaldi wrote: Yeh, jack_mo and other Mac types: don't put your whole home folder in there: dropbox silently mangles the shit out of resource forks (so fonts, weblinks etc all die) and packages (like .apps).

Yeah, I was using 'home folder' in the - possibly unique to me! - sense of 'all my plain text files and photos', which are the only things I would really cry about if something went awry. (Also resource forks tend to do my head in, being a bit of a computer dunce with old Macs, new Macs and computers running Linux in the house.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2008


@Pronoiac: I didn't mean to imply that mosso's pricing is any better than S3, just that it is another alternative. Rackspace seems to be buying up companies in an effort to assemble a cloud offering to compete with Amazon. I've had good experiences with Rackspace thus far, so I'm experimenting with mosso for the moment.
posted by benzenedream at 4:32 PM on December 17, 2008


teferi: "Pepsi Blue much?"

Not really. The free version of Dropbox is still very useful to most people since the first 2 gigs are free.
posted by sveskemus at 4:32 PM on December 17, 2008


Shepherd and jkaczor: I think you are both under the impression that the files are stored remotely only. As far as I can tell, Dropbox stores files locally, and you will access them locally, directly from your hard drive. It also stores copies (and the revision data) online, to be copied down to local hard drives of any other machines that are sharing that Dropbox. So as others have said, if Dropbox disappears one day, you will still have your data, safe and sound. If the internet blows up, you still have your data.

From what I can tell, SugarSync does pretty much the exact same things (minus linux support and photo galleries, maybe?), and with slightly better pricing. Does anyone see any substantial differences between Dropbox and SugarSync?
posted by whatnotever at 5:06 PM on December 17, 2008


whatnotever: "Does anyone see any substantial differences between Dropbox and SugarSync?"

Dropbox gives you the first 2 gigs for free forever. SugarSync gives you 10 gigs for free for 45 days. SugarSync doesn't seem to offer a free option beyond the first 45 days.
posted by sveskemus at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2008


Pepsi Blue much?

This IS kind of one-link thing promoting a commercial site that isn't even the first of its kind. Hm.
posted by rokusan at 5:49 PM on December 17, 2008


Does anyone see any substantial differences between Dropbox and SugarSync?

SugarSync is a bit more like backup while Dropbox is more like an anywhere USB stick on your computer.

With SugarSync, you specify the files and folders you want to sync to the website and to your other computers. Dropbox creates a Dropbox folder on your computer and any files and folders you dump there, get synced to the Dropbox website and your other computers.

This key difference affects the pricing because people use SugarSync and Dropbox a bit differently. SugarSync users will naturally use a lot more disk space and require more frequent updating since they'll sync up a whole lot more files and folders. Since Dropbox only syncs what's in the Dropbox folder, most people won't sync their entire music and photo libraries, just a few files, pictures, and songs that would be handy to have in different computers.

At the same time, because Dropbox creates a brand new folder on all client computers, it's quite handy for managing files for teams and clients. I can tell clients to install Dropbox, share a specific folder with them, and they'll always have the latest files in their Dropbox folder. And I can do this for many clients, each with their own Dropbox sub-folder, while on my computer they all sit together under the parent Dropbox folder. I never have to upload any files to a FTP site or webpage. I can save all my files directly to Dropbox. And if they accidentally delete a file (and thus deleting the file on my end), I can easily recover it from the online revisions archive.
posted by junesix at 5:52 PM on December 17, 2008


Tarsnap is my S3+EC2-powered backup service of choice atm; the client is open source, and once the data leaves my network it's effectively just random data, with end-to-end strong crypto not just limited to a bit of SSL between me and the backup service. It's also targeted directly at my primary Important-Work OS, which helps quite a bit; no dodgy binary blobs running under ABI emulation to worry about.

Dropbox seems to me to be more of a sharing service; I wouldn't use it to backup anything important even if it did some with source, at least without yet another layer on top of it providing crypto.
posted by Freaky at 6:26 PM on December 17, 2008


Tarsnap
DropBox
Scoot

Is it any wonder why I download this stuff with no regard for what it does? I just like cool names!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:06 PM on December 17, 2008


Well, you would have to, right? Otherwise you could post something in the public folder and then sue your buddy (and probably Dropbox, too) for downloading it.
That's absurd. First of all, no one would successfully be able to sue for that (INAL, but the courts aren't retarded) and secondly the license need only say "You can't sue us for sharing your shared files with the people you chose to share them with."
That's what stops me from using it or any of these things much. My files are all on encrypted volumes, which present as single large (8Gb each) files that I back up daily (cron job) by copying the single whole file to another drive. Once and awhile, I burn DVDs and put them somewhere else.

Even the smallest change to a text file on a volume, though, would change the whole overall volume, which a service like this only sees as a single large file, so that'd be 8 or 16Gb back and forth for every tiny change.
Even the smallest change to a text file on a volume, though, would change the whole overall volume, which a service like this only sees as a single large file, so that'd be 8 or 16Gb back and forth for every tiny change.

That's not even remotely true. Think about it, if it were, making one of those tiny changes would require a 16gb write to your hard drive.

All of those encrypted disk systems use block ciphers, not stream ciphers.
@Mikey-San is spot on. WebDAV as a protocol isn't shit. In fact it is pretty lightweight and even kind of graceful. But the Finder's WebDAV implementation is complete and utter shit. Speaking as someone in the middle of writing a WebDAV server…
Well, given that SVN uses WebDAV for all networking, I'm a pretty hard-core user, as are most developers, I'd bet (Except for l33t git users, of course)

Also, what the fuck is going on with this @notation, FFS.
posted by delmoi at 9:09 PM on December 17, 2008


scruss: Shame their Linux client requires Nautilus (this would be handy on a headless server) and is closed source. Strikes me as the sort of thing you could do with ssh, and be able to trust the security.

If you don't mind not having a system tray icon, you don't actually need Nautilus. I ran it with Openbox and Thunar for a bit, as have some other folks. See here, here and here. The developers also promise that "A daemon only install is definitely in the works."

Not that this mitigates the issues surrounding the closed-source daemon but...y'know..just sayin'.
posted by jbullion at 9:19 PM on December 17, 2008


Also, what the fuck is going on with this @notation, FFS.

d schwa lol look at this nub
posted by Mikey-San at 3:37 AM on December 18, 2008


This is perfect. I regularly shuffle data beween different systems in different locations and until now I've been using a USB stick, which I usually find that I have left behind at location A when I need it at location B. Thanks chuckdarwin.
posted by chrid at 8:48 AM on December 18, 2008


Even the smallest change to a text file on a volume, though, would change the whole overall volume, which a service like this only sees as a single large file, so that'd be 8 or 16Gb back and forth for every tiny change.

That's not even remotely true. Think about it, if it were, making one of those tiny changes would require a 16gb write to your hard drive.

All of those encrypted disk systems use block ciphers, not stream ciphers.


Hm that's a good point, or at least a promising one. The single large file definitely does change, but if they can somehow send only the block diffs of the single file itself, it could work.

I'll have to try this. I was assuming they were syncing based on files, not on blocks. The ones I tried before definitely sent the whole file if it's changed, making the whole thing unusable for large files with small changes (which encrypted volumes are) but it's been a couple of years now.
posted by rokusan at 11:54 AM on December 18, 2008


I regularly shuffle data beween different systems in different locations and until now I've been using a USB stick, which I usually find that I have left behind at location A when I need it at location B.

Easier solution: Use your USB stick as your keychain.

Hard to leave the house without keys.
posted by rokusan at 11:55 AM on December 18, 2008


jkaczor - Hey, if you already have offsite backup or geographically separated data centers, & hardware failover for dying power supplies & hard drives, feel free to ignore this. You don't have to put all your backups in one basket.

rokusan - You might have to specifically enable block-level updates, but Dropbox & Jungle Disc both offer that. File size limits might be a problem though.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2008


I think block level updates are on by default for dropbox. I wasn't aware it worked like this as well. Very cool.
posted by chunking express at 1:09 PM on December 18, 2008


rokusan: I did. It broke.
posted by chrid at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2008


KevinSkomsvold: Tarsnap should actually be fairly clear to the target demographic; it's Unix tar, which anyone who's used an *ix should be familiar with, and it efficiently maintains point-in-time snapshots using it.

rokusan: Tarsnap at least, splits files into 64k chunks and indexes them using SHA256; if it's seen that hash before, it doesn't store it again, even if it was last seen on a completely different archive. Hence I can have a dozen archives of the same folder over the past month (or indeed, different folders which happen to have some identical files in them), delete them in whatever order I see fit, and at any point only be using as much storage as needed for a single archive plus the blocks that differ between the different copies of it.
posted by Freaky at 7:47 PM on December 18, 2008


Jock@law, there's more than just discovery to be wary of. There's also the (quite legitimate, I think) worry that access will be granted by the company extra-judicially, or retro-judicially. Look at Hushmail's happenings with the drug smugglers - although they caved to the U.S. Feds, the history is that they refused to do anything until they had a court order from a Canadian judge.

I gotta say, I'd prefer even that to bending over backwards for the DoJ.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:25 PM on December 20, 2008


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