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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?

astrotsarina's picture

Switched to a switchbox

I had been using YouSynchronize, but the automation didn't always work (for example, it would error out if the laptop wasn't connected to the network, and then I wouldn't know that it hadn't synced). After a couple instances of messing up as a result, I decided to give up. In a couple cases, I made a new invoice a couple times in what turned out to be the older version of the accounting software (MYOB AccountEdge) database). I also discovered one synced folder that was missing a bunch of files (somehow the sync messed up and deleted them, according to the history, but I don't know why). Luckily, they were archives (although I'm still annoyed that they're gone). Since I can't risk that happening with more vital files, I now keep my working stuff on my MacBook Pro. I will occasionally backup to the desktop, but I won't sync. I use my laptop at my desk through a KVM.

The desktop keeps my iLife stuff (since I can access iTunes and iPhoto through TiVo, so it needs to be always on). The desktop also is the server for Now Contact and Now Up-to-Date. My husband (he's a Windows user) and I both sync automatically with those via the network and the Internet. I use IMAP for all my e-mail accounts, so I can use Mail on both computers if I need to (though I try to keep it to the laptop, since I can't sync the sent mail folder). I use .Mac to keep the accounts synced.

I've also switched to using del.icio.us for bookmarks.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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