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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?

Prion's picture

putting everything to sleep

Hi Keith

many thanks for your reply!

How do you log off before unplugging the external HDD? Is putting the Mac to sleep sufficient or do you need to log in as another user?

When I am on the road I'd rather work on the internal HDD only so your suggestion to clone it to a disk image sounds promising. theoretically this should even work with symlinks as it is pointing to the same target (disk image and external HDD sharing the same name).

But it seems to me that setting this up may be more difficult. Do you set the external drive to ignore file persmissions? If not, how do you clone the external to the internal HDD (or in fact any two external HDDs)? Correct me if I am wwrong but when they are mounted simultaneously they should be called differently at least under the hood. Or do you log in as a neutral administrator and do the cloning from there?

Also, do you have any information if this system is going to work with Leopard equally well? Rumour is that some of the functionality of NetinfoManager will be moved to the Directory Service. No idea if that is going to make things more difficult or just a little different. Perhaps I am more confused than is actually necessary, so I'd welcome your feedback.


PS: have you posted a similar thread on the kGTD forum back in March 2006? Nothing goes unnoticed ;-)




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