How to painlessly share photos on a local network?
March 10, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

What's the least painful way to have a shared pool of photos on a local network which can be synced to multiple computers?

Our network: two MacBooks, Time Capsule with an attached USB HD, two Airport Expresses.

My wife and I each take myriad photos (and video) of our son. She offloads hers to her MacBook, and I offload mine to mine. From there we may distribute them privately online (Facebook, etc.) However if she ever needs to access my photos... she's out of luck if I take my computer with me.

It would be ideal for each of us to have a complete copy of the library on our machines which then magically syncs up over our network when possible (or when we tell it to.) For reference I use Lightroom for photos, and she uses iPhoto.

The solution for this has gotta be easy to use or my wife won't touch it. I'm willing to do a little AppleScript-fu if necessary. She wasn't a fan of Dropbox, so as transparent as possible would be great.

The ultimate destinations for these photos will be prints and the web, but I'd rather not store *everything* on the web... I mean, we have a network and all.

Feel free to ask more questions... thanks in advance.
posted by hijinx to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dropbox is the easiest and simplest solution (disclosure: referral link but it gives you extra space for free).
posted by turkeyphant at 8:33 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: I like the idea of Dropbox for sure, but if I can avoid paying for a solution and not have it out on the web that would be nice.
posted by hijinx at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2010

Can you plug the USB HD into a wireless router so that you both have access to it all the time? That is what I do in my house. Sharing files among 3 Ubuntu boxes and 1 Vista box. It works fine.
posted by COD at 9:03 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: Hey COD!

Yeah, the USB HD is already on the Time Capsule which serves as a wireless router. But the issue there is that there's no syncing of "offline" folders.
posted by hijinx at 9:12 AM on March 10, 2010

Well, dropbox gives you 2 GB for free, more if you can use your referral link to get others to join. (I hate this, but you get what you pay for, and it's a absolutely great service). It doesn't need to be complicated; your wife doesn't even need to know it's dropbox. It simply syncs a folder over several computers. Have the tiny app running in the background on all computers. Drop the photos in the "dropbox" folder (or one of it's subfolders), and you're done. Easy peasy. You can even rename the folder so that there's no "dropbox" name. They won't be public unless you put them in the public folder.

It really is as simple as a folder on your various computers -- it is synced automatically and almost instantly.
posted by cgg at 9:16 AM on March 10, 2010

Also, I should mention (since I just saw that you don't want to store everything on the web), that there are local copies on each of the linked machines. So if for some reason dropbox goes away, you still have copies on both your wife's and your computer.
posted by cgg at 9:17 AM on March 10, 2010

Best answer: Would it be sufficient to sync up every night? If so you could do something with scripts and crontab. Basically kick off rsync to go from laptop -> fileserver (local photos) and fileserver -> laptop (others' photos) every night at some point.

A more elegant solution would probably be to use some Mac equivalent of ifup scripts (scripts that run whenever you bring a particular network interface up) but I don't know if that's possible — I've never tried. Or maybe you could do something clever involving Folder Actions.

Alternately, if you don't need total user transparency, you could make a little "sync" application that just triggered the upload/download script to run on demand.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2010

Best answer: Windows Live Mesh. Automatic folder synchronization.

Laugh now, but it works.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:11 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use SyncBack on my Windows machines, but browsing through their website it doesn't look like they support Mac. You can set up multiple backup/sync profiles and it will run automatically according to whatever schedule you choose. And free!
posted by backseatpilot at 10:31 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: Windows Live Mesh looks interesting - and I'd never heard of it. Very cool.

Kadin, I'm going to look more into Folder Actions and rsync and see if I can come up with something... thank you for the pointers.
posted by hijinx at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: I thought I'd follow up on this.

After chatting about the options with my wife we decided to give Dropbox another try but, alas, our photos from just the first two months of this year took up about 1.25GB. Given that and we have the aforementioned network drive just sitting here with over 200GB free, that was the way we decided to go.

I set up access to a networked folder on both machines, and used Folder Actions + Automator to do a simple "copy to the networked folder" whenever a file is added. It doesn't catch removed or modified files, but that's fine for the time being.

Thanks again to everyone for your help!
posted by hijinx at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2010

« Older Stone puppet silver pavement   |   I need help picking media center software. What... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.