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Geek Throwdown: How to sync two or more Macs?

Enter the Octagon

Here’s an experimental new feature: The Throwdown. Take a problem that lots of people face and tell us your personal favorite way to deal with it — in as much detail and with as much persuasion as you can muster.

Today, a lot of us are living on two or more Macs -- which is great, except for the challenge of keeping the contents and settings of multiple machines effortlessly in sync.

Now before you pop in, holler "dot mac," and jump back on your Segway®, consider that many folks (including your author) are looking for a lot more than simple document syncing and perfunctory preference sharing. How about if your needs are more nuanced:

  • Can it intelligently sync "~/Library" stuff like "Preferences" and "Application Support" for your apps (so that Quicksilver, for example, is with you and tweaked to perfection wherever you go)? Is it smart enough to know which items not to sync?
  • Can it do smarter comparisons than "which one is newer?" -- consider that someone on 4 or 5 Macs may run into complex versioning problems that currently make .Mac very confused. For text, can it do diff3-style merging?
  • Will it update often enough (and automatically enough) that I can trust when I sit down at a new machine, I'll know everything's up to date without checking (or manual re-updating)?
  • Can backups be easily automated? And is it easy to restore across all machines?
  • Does it work for people on airplanes? If your solution requires a live internet connection for active usage (e.g. traditional WebDAV), what happens when that access is no longer available?

You get the idea. You have a system; now tell us about it. Bow to your sensei, then spare no detail.

How do you sync your Macs?

rsync? ChronoSync? Synchronize? Unison? Something you made yourself?

What are using to sync your Macs, and how are you using it?

aneviltrend's picture

Subversion works pretty well.

I'm a fan of subversion. I'm a student at college now, and I find it very useful to subversion each of my class directories. I have a desktop that I use dynamic dns to access (sadly not a Mac) on which I set up each of the subversion repositories.

Not only do I get version control on every file for my classes, but I can check out the repository onto any computer with subversion and make edits (which I do on my Macbook). And when the semester's over and I no longer need immediate access to my files, I just delete my local copy on my Macbook - instant space savings, and the repository is still safe on my desktop.

I have a weekly backup script to tarball my repository directory and back it up to an external drive, so my data stays pretty safe.

If I ever need to give a friend access to my class files, it's no big deal - just adjust the permissions for that repository. No more than a few seconds of work.

I realize that subversion may not work for everybody (especially if you wanted to sync your entire user directory, or if you don't like using the terminal) but for my needs it has worked wonderfully.




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