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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?

gopiballava's picture


I've been using Mercurial, a subversion replacement, for awhile. I do currently use it primarily for source code, but it doesn't limit you to just that.

What I like about it is that it handles offline checkins very, very well.

My personal spec was: I have a laptop. At the time I was in Germany where cellular data was very expensive. I want to be able to checkpoint my work. When I'm about to rip apart some code, I want to check in the working version on my laptop without an Internet link.

I also work on code that runs on servers - primarily Python. I do the testing on my local laptop, then I push it to the server. Sometimes I find bugs on the server side code. I could edit on the laptop and push back, but I usually prefer to edit on the server. Now I have another version of the code...

Mercurial handles this all extremely well. I can push code changes back and forth, and I keep a full history of the changes.

When I type "hg push" on my laptop, all my changes are pushed onto my remote server, including the full history of those changes. When I type "hg pull" on my laptop, I get the changes back from the server. If I've made conflicting changes it does inform me and I have to fix that, but if you don't make conflicting changes it's virtually effortless.

There is a bit of a learning curve, but if you read their quick start tutorials, and create a dummy repository with a few text files it will all start to make sense. I think it's the best solution out there if you want to have serious support for disconnected operation.




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