How to Think About Sync

Perhaps I’m demonstrating a bit of hubris in pretending I understand the sync feature well enough to say anything useful, but I recently solved what seemed to me like a real pain-in-the-*** problem and the path to resolution gave me a whole different viewpoint. I thought I might try communicating that to others in the hope that it helps other souls facing down similarly unpleasant circumstances.

The short version of my problem: I use DT for all my notes, but my absurd-security day job has my company issued MacBook Pro locked down tighter than a medieval convent. Seriously, I can’t access any web sites, I can’t use Dropbox, I can’t use iCloud, I can’t… Any normal tool one might imagine to allow actual data or file sharing can pretty much fit into that sentence because it’s not allowed. Frankly, I’m surprised they let me look at the screen.

I simply cannot deal with not having my notes accessible on my iPhone, iPad, other computers, etc. I can’t. I won’t. So I’ve spent months finding a way around the situation and have finally cracked this particular nut. If you take away nothing else, here’s the important bit. DT does not sync like anything else I’ve used. The key difference was a shift in perspective. I needed to stop thinking of my notes as a series of databases whose records/files/whatever get synced through one particular technology and start thinking of DT as a distributed database that can be replicated via multiple technologies across any number of places.

For most of my needs, the built-in iCloud sync is great. It’s a bit slow sometimes, and I have minor issues every once in a while, but honestly that’s true of any application that uses Apple technology to handle its data. For my super-crazy-security day job, I can barely access machines on my local network segment, and even then only on ports that aren’t specifically locked down. So here was my solution:

  1. I managed to get the MBP to sync to a local WebDAV store on my Synology NAS. I had to qualify the URL and edit the port, so the final thing looked like this: http://SynologyNasNetworkName.local:OneUsablePortNumber/ShareName/.
  2. I could then configure my iPhone and iPad to use the same WebDAV store for replication. And because those two devices were already syncing databases via the iCloud technologies, all of a sudden all my work database notes showed up on all my other machines!

It’s actually a little more complicated than that, because I live in two different cities in two different houses with two different NAS systems, but that basic principle let me unleash the power of DT and work around the ridiculous security on my laptop. I hope that helps somebody else because this has been quite a journey for me. Cheers!

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iCloud sync is an easy alternative to implement
however DTTG aborts on my iPad when syncing

Even easier (no sync store), Bonjour works well for me;
(I have a Mac Mini desktop always available)
I have to remember to sync before I leave the home network

It’s great to see this inventive workaround for your workplace security, though I hope your IT folks are not members of this forum :slight_smile:

I would like to second the comments made by DTLow. Bonjour is amazing (no need for the Internet at all) and I think the wide range of available options is what really makes DT stand out from the “simple is best” crowd that dominates the app store.

My opinion (based on no evidence beyond my own experience) is that other products in this space think their users lack the mental capacity to handle complicated tasks (more than two or three choices on a screen, for example) and they have a strong aversion to spending time / money / effort on options used by a relatively small number of users (there are always fewer “power” users than ones who download something and barely use it). Sometimes, it boggles my mind that app developers would apparently rather have longtime paying users abandon the app rather than support existing features or add new features to support the needs of so-called “power users” (a euphemism for people who actually enjoy using the product). The allure of the “new user” number is quite powerful, I think, and it leads to all kinds of apps that offer easy on-boarding with less and less support for people who want to stick with something over time.

Long story short, I’ve been using DT for over a decade now (14 years?) and it seems to me that the features have generally increased and / or become more robust over time, including the sync options.

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To be honest, I have a fair bit of mental capacity, but it never occurred to me to think of DT as a distributed database. I think literally every other piece of software that I use with a sync feature syncs via a single technology to a single server/cloud-store/whatever. I didn’t even realize I could have my laptop try to sync to one local WebDAV server in one house and a completely different local WebDAV server in the other house, but I can.

Yes, it’s constantly giving me errors half the time about not being able to connect to house 1 when I’m in house 2, but that’s not a problem. Somehow, DT just magically makes everything appear everywhere through my two handheld devices from WebDAV to CloudKit no matter where I am. That’s bloody amazing and a complete game-changer for how I view its data storage.

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Do this search and you’ll see a familiar avatar…


Nice to know I was right in my mental frame-shift! Or at least in good company.

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Hat tip to this user for suggesting Bonjour! I find I can get the same thing working without the intermediary WebDAV store simply by enabling Bonjour on my company-issued MBP and then using my iPhone as the “bridge” between Bonjour and the usual iCloud (CloudKit) synchronization! I have to make sure to open DTTG on my phone to make sure everything is synced properly between the two different mechanisms, but again it all acts like a brilliant distributed database. Neat!