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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?

the_mace's picture


Personally I have a mac at work and one at home. I want all my work data at home but not vice versa. I rsync over ssh to a non standard port with a private ssh key via a cron job at night into a subfolder on my home machine.

Its not bidirectional but you could set it up both ways and do bidirectional but at a folder level. From work if I need to get at home stuff I just ssh with the same ssh key can can copy files etc.

I use a similar technique for backups of machines within my household where they sync to each other on a schedule (no ssh needed there). If you have more than 1 mac, why have extra external drives? Just sync them to each other to places with appropriate security settings if you need them.

Not the most user friendly solution, but its not rocket science. rsync has lots of options and plenty of run time. Everything else is basically a wrapper. With cron you figure out how often you want to do it.

Seems to meet the needs of this thread.




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