Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Sync and repent

I’m sure the day will come when we can have our desktop, applications and data stored in ‘the cloud’ – accessible from anywhere and safely backed up by a subscription service. While some systems do exist, we’ll need much better broadband access, amongst other things, before it can become ubiquitous.
In the meantime, there are services which will synchronise files and settings between multiple desktop computers. The two I’ve started using are Dropbox and Mozilla Weave.
Dropbox initially provides you with 2 GB of free storage, but you can get up to 3 GB by referring friends (here’s my referral link) or pay for more – 50 GB costs $10/month and 100 GB costs $20/month. It provides desktop clients for Windows (XP, Vista and 7), Mac OS X (10.4+) and Linux (binaries for Ubuntu 7.1+ and Fedora Core 9+, source code for other distros), and there’s also a web interface, an iPhone app and an Android app is in the works.
It works by creating a folder called ‘Dropbox’ in your home folder. Any files you put in the Dropbox folder are automagically synchronised with Dropbox’s servers. It will even save previous copies of files, as well as deleted files, for up to 30 days – and even longer with the paid-for packages. Then, when you log in on another machine with the Dropbox client, it will update the Dropbox folder on that machine with the files on the server. It works really well – files you put in your dropbox on one computer appear on another the next time you log on. There’s no manual uploading or ‘do you want to overwrite’ messages. The clients for Mac OS X and Windows are both very unobtrusive and just work quietly in the background.
Dropbox is great for ensuring important files are always accessible, and is easier than sending files to yourself by email. It also serves as a useful off-site backup.
Mozilla Weave is a little more specific in that it just keeps settings and personal information in Firefox synchronised between multiple machines. It’ll copy passwords, history, bookmarks and browser settings. There’s no web interface (so you can’t view saved passwords on another machine without Weave for example) but it will work with Fennec, the mobile version of Firefox. Again, once set-up, it will run quietly in the background.
Thanks to these two applications, I have consistent browsing experience and access to the most recent copies of my key files, whether I’m on a Windows machine or Mac. Best of all, they’re free to use.

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