Whither iFolder?

It looks as if iFolder has fallen off the rails as a project. It’s not even included in Ubuntu Edgy, the next release due in a few weeks. It’s a great shame as I really liked the look of it. It has a nice web interface to control the “server” and the client-side utility is very simple. There’s just one minor drawback. I never got it to work.

See, I was going to use iFolder to keep my files synchronised between my laptop and the file server. It was also going to synchronise them between the desktop and the file server. So that way files would be stored on three systems and serve as my primary backup mechanism. Also, if I updated a file on one machine, the other would have the updated version within a few minutes, preventing me having to worry about versioning between systems. Of course, iFolder would also have run without intervention, making it all that much more shiny.

Installing iFolder server on Sarge was do-able following the HOWTO on the website, although it involved compiling some things, using alien on others, and generally squishing the software into non-standard and icky locations. But the server ran and the web interface was very nice. It just didn’t let any files synchronise to it. Debugging the server was a case of poking around in the dark. There are .debs for Ubuntu Dapper, but I was told they’re too old to be useful and I should be compiling from SVN. Because there’s no real community built up around this project, there’s no way to get help for debugging without drilling into the code itself, something which is beyond my skills. I got lots of confusing advice about which version of which server to use with which client version and whether I should wait for the client to be rewritten in another language before proceeding. Well, I’ve waited but I don’t think I can wait any longer. Given that I don’t want to change distro, I have to look for alternatives.

This is my home backup system, not work. I don’t need the power and complexity of Bacula and Amanda. I just want to keep my files in different places for redundancy and have them all synchronised to the same version. Historically, I’ve used Unison, but the version shipped in Dapper isn’t compatible with the version in Sarge, and the stand-alone binary of the newer version just returns errors for me on Sarge. Unison was never really ideal though, as I had to go through the list of files that had changed between sychronisations and manually say whether I wanted to copy the file from system A to system B. Then I had to do the same to synchronise system B and system C. And there were vesion conflicts, of course. I appreciate that version conflicts can happen in any system like this, but with a 5 minute synchronisation window, iFolder would have eliminated them for me, given my computing practices.

What I’m looking for should ideally be transparent in operation, except in critical circumstances. It should basically get on with its job and not take up my time to run. Oh, and it needs to be installable on Ubuntu and Debian. I’ve looked at sbackup, which was sponsored by Google Summer of Code and was designed for Ubuntu. It is a more traditional backup tool, rather than a file synchroniser though, and although it claims to backup to a remote host via SSH, this fails whenever the “test” button is used and fails to save the details to the config file. I’ve also looked a little bit at gshare, which looks OK, but uses FTP and might be a bit light on the security side of things. rsync is unidirectional. All the random perl scripts that people use for backups don’t fill me with confidence, don’t meet the criteria above and don’t seem to handle the three-way setup I’ve got. This post is more just an expression of frustration than a plea for help, but if anyone has any ideas, I’ll be interested to hear them. Advice to keep my home directory in SVN and make it available via WebDAV will not be appreciated. Unless it’s really easy to do and meets all my criteria, of course. 🙂

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    2 Responses to Whither iFolder?

    1. GreyDuck says:

      I feel your pain. What’s worse is that I came out of a Netware-centric environment, and now that I’m stuck in Microsoft-land I have to make do with a Linux system here and there. I had the same “success” you did: The server ran, but no joy came of trying to send it files.

      Some day we’ll look back on these times and shake our heads sadly at how much longer it took to get us an iFolder-like solution than it ought to have…

    2. Tony says:

      Somebody (sorry, can’t remember who) in #lugradio suggested I look at conduit: http://www.conduit-project.org/ It’s not packaged yet, but looks like it might do what I’m after, even though it’s not really the main design goals. Have to wait and see if it matures first, I guess.

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