Devon-Think and dropbox?

Has anyone tried using dropbox to sync a devon-think database between two or more computers? Dropbox is pretty good and new file syncing system that automatically uploads and downloads changed files as needed to two or more computers.

I have 2 major questions about how it might interact with Devon-Think databases. The first is how it deals with the internal structure of the database. In theory, the database is just a folder with a index file. Would something like Dropbox, which kind of works like rsynch, be able to see inside of the database and just upload what ever file was changed, or do you think it would upload the entire database each time it’s saved.

Secondly, and more importantly, would this lead to any instability with the database? Files gone missing, corruption in the database, that kind of thing?

I’ve been looking for awhile for some way to keep a database synced between two computers, and this looks like a good solution (devon-synch has just never worked well for me), so I’m hoping other people have had good luck with it.

I have been using Dropbox with Devon-Think Pro Office and have had zero problems. It’s a great solution whether I am at school or home.


Would that be similar to doing it through an iDisk? Has anybody tried doing this through MobileMe?

Just a quick update. I’ve been using dropbox to mirror a devon-think database between two computers, and it seems to be working fine. The trick is to remember to quit devon-think when you’re not using it, since the .lock file gets mirrored too, so you’ll get error messages if you’re not careful.

I haven’t seen any problems with data or anything else, so this might be a solution for people who want to easily access the same database on two computers.

Although I haven’t tested DropBox, I’ll urge caution anyway. I would encourage manually running Tools > Verify & Repair before each session of database use, and afterwards. I would recommend running the Backup Archive script after verifying the database at the conclusion of a session, and storing the archive on the last-used computer.

As a practical matter, your Internet connection is going to be a lot slower than the read/write speeds on your hard drive. You don’t control Internet traffic, nor the remote servers involved in transmission of data from one of your computers to the other via DropBox. I won’t go into issues of error rates. Or speculate on the business model for DropBox and whether or not it will survive over any given time period.

So there can be a latency period – which may vary for a number of reasons – between the time you close your database on one machine, and can load a fully synchronized copy on your other computer. If you shut down the source computer before it has transmitted all your data, DropBox can’t properly handle that. If you then start work on your other computer, you may run into database problems.

The faster your Internet connection and the smaller your DT Pro database, the less likely that it may be that you encounter serious problems. But from a quality assurance perspective, I’d have less confidence in copying from one machine to the other via DropBox, than in a direct copy via Ethernet or WiFi from one machine to the other, or running the database on a portable hard drive moved between the computers; there are additional variables I can’t fully assess or control.

Before I moved to my log cabin in the woods, I had a 15 mbs fiber optic broadband connection. If I still had that, I might experiment with DropBox. But now I’ve got a satellite connection, nominally 1.5 mbs but often much slower, with frequent dropouts because of weather conditions. A few weeks ago, I lost my Internet connection for 4 hours on a clear, sunny day. I called tech service and was told the the problem was caused by bad weather at the upload site in Texas. See what I mean about variables?

Yes, I too dream of instantaneous, error-free and secure cloud computing. It’s certainly not here yet, at least for me. :slight_smile:

Just be cautious, run the Verify & Repair procedure often and keep external backups. And yes, always close your database so that memory is flushed to disk, the database is properly closed and the database isn’t locked.

It does see inside the database package, so it does only update the individual files that have changed. That said, you do need to make sure you quit DEVONThink on one computer before you try to use it on the other so the lock file is gone.

The only problem I’ve found is I initially got a bunch of copies of the .database files (inside the package) that were listed as conflicts because I was updating them on my laptop. Once I deleted those “conflict” files, everything seems to be fine.

Dropbox seems to work well for this purpose and appears to be much faster than SugarSync on my computer. I only wish they had more options for the size of disk.

Also, if you run into a problem, you can always revert back to an earlier version of the DEVONThink database on the Dropbox web site since it does revision control.

As a matter of fact, revision control does not work very well with packages (including DT database) : packages are considered as simple folders, so you could do RC of any file inside of them but not on the whole folder itself. At least, as far as I know (wich may not be that far :mrgreen: )

Nevertheless, I do use Dropbox with a 1go DT database and it works fine (as in : no problem at all). It only uploads/downloads the files that have been changed so it is really fast. But, as stated before, one must remember to always close DT database before opening it on another computer or it could lead to some surprises :wink:

I’ll chime in and add my experience as well. I agree with tjl about DropBox vs. SugarSync. I’ve only recently added the SS demo, primarily because of additional choices, but it does seem a good bit slower than DB.

Thus far, I’ve used both of them to sync a few smallish (<1G) databases without any issues. I’m gradually (and cautiously :wink: ) expanding my testing to include larger databases.

Looking forward to the changes to the databases/files that I’ve been reading about in v2.0. Seems like, if I’m understanding the changes correctly, there would be less danger of corrupted data, etc. using DropBox, SugarSync, et al, with v2.0. Also, database sizes appear to be considerably smaller. Always a good thing :slight_smile:

To follow up on this speculation: I just had DropBox blow away an entire evening of work in DTP2, by the way. It might have something to do with how modification dates are updated, but somehow computer A’s copy took over the cloud copy, even though Computer B had been synced off of A and then changed all evening. I use DropBox for a lot of things, but at the moment I don’t recommend it for DTP2. I don’t use it for Scrivener either. It seems to work just fine for ordinary files—but when it comes to bundles the results are far less reliable and can result in a lot of lost work.

Update: I was able to recover my lost work by going through the entire database and manually restoring all instances of conflicted copies. Turns out the whole top-level DTP2 database was conflicted and a scattering of files. Fortunately most of my work last evening was related to organisation and not data, otherwise it would have taken a lot longer to fix. Once the old copies were restored, the database loaded up as it should have.

Still, this is worrying.