Using Dropbox to synchronize folders across machines

Started by greg, April 02, 2009, 04:40:43 PM

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UPDATE! - These instructions are for storing Espionage'd folders within Dropbox, which is not recommended (though possible). For new instructions on how to encrypt your Dropbox folder safely, see this blog post.

Note: While this tip is for Dropbox, similar (if not exact) considerations can be taken to synchronize Espionage'd folders via different means

We received a support email with the following question from Alan:

Quote from: "Alan"Can I somehow configure Espionage to work with Dropbox so I can use my Espionage folders on multiple systems? I see how the backup works, but I was hoping to be able to keep a single Espionage folder in my Dropbox and have it sync on both machines.

While it is possible, currently we do not recommend it because there is no explicit support for Dropbox built-in to Espionage, and because Dropbox changes how the Finder behaves this causes some issues with Espionage when using it to sync folders (as you mentioned though, using it as a backup destination is fine).

If you still want to try though, here's how to do it (we recommend using a dummy test folder first):

  • Add Dropbox to Espionage's whitelist on both machines
  • Encrypt a folder on the first Mac in your Dropbox and then make sure that it's locked.
  • On the second Mac you should soon see your locked Espionage'd folder, wait for it to complete transferring.
  • Add that folder to Espionage on the second machine using the *same settings and password*

Finally, you'll have to make sure the two Espionage's are in sync by making sure that the folder is in the same state that the other Espionage expects.  In other words, after you finish working with the folder on one Mac, lock it and do not unlock it on the other mac until both sides have finished receiving the changes. The other Mac's Espionage should expect the folder to be locked as well.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Whenever you lock or unlock the folder, the entire contents will be resent to Dropbox because the disk image is being moved. (See the built-in help topic "How does Espionage work?" for more information)
  • You might have to whitelist any helper apps that Dropbox might use on both machines. You'll know if the password prompt appears on either machine.  You can whitelist it from the prompt itself, just click the blue button in the lower-left of the prompt. To see the full path of the application that's attempting to access the folder, hover the mouse over the text that says: "The application '___' wants access to the folder:"
  • Since Dropbox changes how the Finder behaves a little bit by injecting code into it, you may see the password prompt appear by itself after locking a folder
  • Using large folders with Dropbox is discouraged since Dropbox will re-upload the entire encrypted data each time because Espionage moves the hidden disk image each time the folder's locked status is changed
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