Sunday, 21 March 2010

iFolder 3.8

For quite a while now I've been looking for something that allows me to sync folders on my Linux (OpenSuSE) laptop with my server. I quite like the way that windows provides roaming profiles. This allows a user to share a home area with multiple machines. The real advance of roaming profiles is that they can be disconnected from the network and then sync backup when reconnected to the network. This is great for laptops. Another big advantage for me is that all the windows machines store a copy of their files on my central samba server. This means I can perform a backup from one central location.

The problem with Microsoft romaing profiles is they only sync on login/logout. First of, I hardly ever log out of my windows desktop machine. I just lock the screen, and second it takes ages to sync changes. I dread having to reboot my windows machine.

So I've been looking for something that would allow a roaming profile type system on Linux. I've tried a few different options over the last few years (unison, csync, rsync) but none them have really been what I was after. So the last week or so, I've been giving iFolder ago. First of I have to say, the server setup was pretty painful. Even though it's sponsored by Novell, the setup took most the last week to get working. In the end I deleted all the ifolder rpm's and deleted any left over files, then reinstalled it. This time the setup process worked, so I'm still sure exactly what was broken.

iFolder consists of a Linux server and client applications that run on MacOS, Linux and windows. Their is also a web client. As soon as I realised this I saw that iFolder has a lot of potential. As well has using it on Linux, it should be possible to use it on windows. So far I've only used it on my Linux laptop, but if that works well I'll probably try it on windows aswell.

The server is written in C# and runs within apache. This means that anywere I can access my web server, I can access the iFolders. This is really great. It means I could sync my folders whilst saying at a hotel with wireless for example (Though my internet upload speed sucks a bit to much for this). The syncing also happens all the time and not just on login/logout. This works much better with the way I work. The web client is also pretty good, this allows me to access my files from work for example. Probably also means I can look at files on my iPhone to some degree.

The downsides of iFolder that I've found so far is that their is no headless command line client. This would have been very useful for on the server it's self. I could have then exported that folder via samba. The client on Linux is also a gnome application which does not fit very well with my KDE desktop. I notice that the client is written in C# which makes me wonder if their are KDE bindings for C#. If so I could probably convert it to run on KDE.

So far I've sync two folders, one (10Gig and 300Meg). The largest one worked fine, but the smaller one is complaining of conflicts. Their should be no conflicts so I suspect it does not like the filenames these files use. That could be a problem as I don't want to be limited by file name. However it does make sense if windows is supported as well. The client pops up a notification balloon when conflicts are found. It's then possible to output the conflict resolve window and fix any problems.

So far I've feeling pretty positive about iFolder. The client does not quite fit with the desktop, it offers a lot of nice features and works pretty well once the server is setup. Going to take a little longer trial before I final decide that it's a winner and put to rest my looking for a Linux roaming profile solution.
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