Looking for ideas on managing files from multiple locations
May 26, 2008 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Give me some ideas to manage my files, my data, my general computer setup etc. etc. for best use from multiple locations.

Basically, I have the following situation:

I have a laptop (Macbook, Tiger), which I use to take notes on etc. I also occasionally make notes on other computers elsewhere (PCs, can't install software on them - they've got web browsers and Cygwin, and some have the option to boot Linux - can't remember which distro). I don't leave my laptop on and on the internet all the time (so I don't think remote desktop is a viable solution).

Sometimes I have an internet connection, sometimes I don't.

I'd like to be able to access all my files from everywhere (this includes PDFs), edit from everywhere etc. - but I also quite fancy version control, and having my own backups.

I have shell access to a shared server, and some (but not a huge amount) of technical competence (I've set up PHP/MySQL sites, dabbled in Ruby, but I'm far short of rolling my own fullblown solution).

I have access to an iDisk.

Could you outline (and provide any links) to my various options - so far I'm thinking Google Docs solution (but I'm worried about reliability - my worst nightmare is making notes offline, and them not syncing and then losing them all - plus I'd quite like to have overall control of my stuff), or some kind of version control system (but what if I have no connection - I probably can't get the latest version of a doc to edit).

Other stuff being available (address book etc.) would be great.

Any ideas appreciated, including purchase of new hardware (within reason - eeePC etc ok, rack mounted server less so).
posted by djgh to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Google Docs does not currently have Gears (offline access) available. It will soon though. In the mean time you could try zoho office (zoho.com).
These online office suites are definately your best bet if you want version control accross multiple platforms. You might be able to get some version control happening with OSX Leopard Time Machine.
Leopard (and maybe Tiger) also have built in support for home directory syncing in system preferences, user accounts.
If you have a dedicated system to store your files you may want to look into WebDAV folder access. This can make folders you specify accessible from the internet (windows instructions: http://helpdesk.wisc.edu/page.php?id=2913), however there can be inherent security problems with this sort of setup.
For my backups at home I use an open source project called Areca Backup (http://areca.sourceforge.net/) runs incremental backups every night. I guess that provides a daily version control mechanism too.
posted by Haydn at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2008

Best answer: Sounds like you might like Dropbox.

You can setup a folder on your mac where you drop/work on files, then access those via a web interface anywhere else.
posted by mattdini at 5:41 PM on May 26, 2008

Best answer: Several people use Subversion or another version control system to store their /home directory. Joey Hess may have been the first to use CVS, but that method is probably not the latest and greatest.
posted by Monochrome at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2008

Take a look at http://portableapps.com/ This site offers a suite of software that can run directly of a USB drive without installation.
posted by swarkentien at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2008

I use CVS for this. You could install CVS on your server and then commit all the files you need to share to the repository. I use the SmartCVS client for access on all of my machines. You would get access to what you need on all your different computers with the added benefit of version control for all of your files.
posted by rglasmann at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2008

Consider looking into WebDAV if you're on Windows, and setting up either DVCS or an rsync system between your laptop and remote server. Oh yes, you're going to need an always-on server.

On the other hand, you could work entirely off your flash drive. Install portable apps, use TiddlyWiki for note taking and keep your files on the stick so they're with you wherever you go. If you decide to go this route then make sure to have some sort of backup solution that kicks in when you plug the drive into your MacBook and does a two-way sync.
posted by semi at 6:36 PM on May 26, 2008

You already have iDisk, and that's actually quite a good option. Doesn't do versioning (dropbox can/does but is invite only) though. You can mount the iDisk on a Windows box just fine (google for it).
posted by schwa at 7:26 PM on May 26, 2008

Best answer: Seconding subversion. I keep all my important stuff in a subversion repository, and working copies on more computers than I can remember. It helps though that most of my work is in flat text files, so I'm not sure how well it will track and merge revisions in word documents and such.

For backups I have a script that generates a copy of the repository, compresses it, and sends it via scp to a physically remote computer. So if for any reason the main server breaks, I can just download the latest backup, decompress, and I have the entire repository including all revisions available.

This works ideally for me because 1) my work is all in text files, with some images and postscript thrown in and 2) I can pretty clearly separate code and text from data. The data I work with is too large to move easily/quickly, so I know that anything that uses the data must be run from specific computers. So given these conditions, subversion is a great solution.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:18 PM on May 26, 2008

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