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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > macOS > What's the best Approach to having 2 computers, keeping things synced, etc

What's the best Approach to having 2 computers, keeping things synced, etc
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JeremyS
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Feb 26, 2003, 12:58 PM
 
I now have 2 macs in my house networked, I am just wondering what the best approach is to maintaining them, do I have to do everything seperately and treat them as two seperate computers?

I mean I plan to do alot of the same things on each but installing programs on both and maintaining the latest versions etc can be a lot of work, I have no problem with that, I am just wondering what types of neat ideas people have come up with to make things easier when dealing with multiple home computers on a network, thanks!
     
Timo
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Feb 26, 2003, 01:04 PM
 
I've found ExecutiveSync to be pretty good with keeping document or work folders in sync. However, don't try to sync your iPhoto libraries...stuff gets messed up.
     
Toyin
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Feb 26, 2003, 03:44 PM
 
Try This

Just remember to sync the computers before you work on documents (it's a pain when one document has been modified on both computers)
-Toyin
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"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
jxflyer
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Feb 26, 2003, 08:01 PM
 
Here's how I keep my 2 macs synced.

Using Synchronize X Plus I "Backup" from the last computer I used to the other, unused computer the following files via an ethernet connection b/w the two computers...

Documents Sync
iCal Sync
iBlog Sync
Movies Sync
Music Sync
Sites Sync

Rather than simply syncing my user name folder, I had to create a separate "sync" file for each folder I wanted to sync to avoid several user preferences problems.

The beauty of Sync X is it will automatically mount the other computer from the network, sync the files then launch the next sync file to be used. When they're done, it quits and unmounts the computer.

To sync my bookmarks I use JeepSafari

I have Sync X set up on each computer so that after I come home. Plug in the ethernet, run each Sync X file, then Jeep Safari and ta da!

The two computers are the same. I use "backup" instead of sync, because I want what was deleted on the iBook to be deleted on the iMac.

So far, the system works great. I back it all up once a week. It's the best. I don't spend time fiddling with files, just run the programs and they do the rest.

If you have certain programs that require special files to be synced, just ask the program's author. I was having problems syncing iBlog. They were able to tell me exactly how to sync it correctly.

Good luck!
Chad Hinkson

Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't...

iMac 2.0 GHZ Intel / 1.5 Gb
MacBook 2.0 Intel / 1.0 mb
OS 10.4
     
Toyin
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Feb 26, 2003, 11:37 PM
 
Originally posted by jxflyer:
Here's how I keep my 2 macs synced.

Using Synchronize X Plus I "Backup" from the last computer I used to the other, unused computer the following files via an ethernet connection b/w the two computers...

Documents Sync
iCal Sync
iBlog Sync
Movies Sync
Music Sync
Sites Sync

Rather than simply syncing my user name folder, I had to create a separate "sync" file for each folder I wanted to sync to avoid several user preferences problems.

The beauty of Sync X is it will automatically mount the other computer from the network, sync the files then launch the next sync file to be used. When they're done, it quits and unmounts the computer.

To sync my bookmarks I use JeepSafari

I have Sync X set up on each computer so that after I come home. Plug in the ethernet, run each Sync X file, then Jeep Safari and ta da!

The two computers are the same. I use "backup" instead of sync, because I want what was deleted on the iBook to be deleted on the iMac.

So far, the system works great. I back it all up once a week. It's the best. I don't spend time fiddling with files, just run the programs and they do the rest.

If you have certain programs that require special files to be synced, just ask the program's author. I was having problems syncing iBlog. They were able to tell me exactly how to sync it correctly.

Good luck!
I made an error. I also use Synchronize X Plus and back-up similarly to you. I agree with selecting specific folders (I also exclude certain files like my 2gb Windows 2000 hardrive image for Virtual PC). Synchronizing preferences between two machines (especially a laptop and desktop) will cause all sorts of window size, monitor size...etc issues. If you're lazy you can synchronize your entire Home folder and choose to eliminate folders like Mail, Library, or Preferences which would cause havoc.

I synchronize iCal & Addressbook through .Mac and I use .Mac as an IMAP account so that's automatically in sync.

The only reason I synchronize instead of back up is so I can see which files are newer. Conflicts can be placed in a seperate folder for further analysis. I synchronize the machines anytime I plan on doing work on either machine (sometimes 2-3x per day).
-Toyin
13" MBA 1.8ghz i7
"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
BKuchta
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Feb 27, 2003, 01:48 AM
 
I'm not too sure about the specifics of this implementation but couldn't you keep all the user home directories on computer 1 and then have computer 2 authenticate to computer 1. Then users would always have the same settings/documents/etc no matter which computer they were on. This type of thing was common practice in the Next days, one would think OSX still has these abilities. You'd probably have to do some Netinfo Manager hacking, but it'd be worth it once you were done. When I get another mac I think it'd be sweet to set up things this way.

Does anyone know how to implement something like this?
     
JB72
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Feb 27, 2003, 02:51 AM
 
Great topic. This is something I struggle with all the time.

For music, I keep them all on one drive being served out. This becomes a drag for my laptop when I travel though.

I'm going to have to bite the bullet and check out one of these synching solutions for the rest of my documents.
     
TC
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Feb 27, 2003, 03:22 AM
 
One other tip for people syncing 2 macs is to give firewire over ip a try.
I was always annoyed that I couldn't put my B&W G3 into firewire target mode, but with firewire over ip I get something similar. The transfer seems a lot faster than 100MB ethernet.

The other thing which was pretty cool is that I can connect my Powerbook G4 to my B&W G3 and my DV camera to the B&W G3. I can then access the camera from my Powerbook in iMovie and tell it to save footage directly to the B&W G3's hard disk. Since the B&W has 100GB of hard disk space it is a much better place to store rough footage.

For backup purposes I have always tended to just backup my whole home directory from my powerbook to a seperate area on the G3. It doesn't really have the power to run my apps so I don't try to keep it ready to use, just as a a backup storage space.

My worry with OS X has allways been knowing which library files and prefences a re for 3rd party apps and which are just system files. I would really like to do a clean install of jaguar but I worry about losing something important. I recently logged into my machine using a root account and it felt a lot faster, I thought this might be linked to the lack of crap in the root's library/preferences. There was an application for OS 9 which would handle 3rd party extensions and preferences during a system update, anything similar for OS X? The other option was to label a clean system and you would then know 3rd party stuff as it didn't have the label.
Nothing to see, move along.
     
jbelch3
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Feb 27, 2003, 06:35 AM
 
I'm currently using Synk. You can find it on Versiontracker. It's freeware (I think) and works great. It will sync any folders or drives. It always keeps the newer copy of a file (You can keep the older dated copy of a file in the archive).
     
Toyin
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Feb 27, 2003, 09:01 AM
 
Originally posted by BKuchta:
I'm not too sure about the specifics of this implementation but couldn't you keep all the user home directories on computer 1 and then have computer 2 authenticate to computer 1. Then users would always have the same settings/documents/etc no matter which computer they were on. This type of thing was common practice in the Next days, one would think OSX still has these abilities. You'd probably have to do some Netinfo Manager hacking, but it'd be worth it once you were done. When I get another mac I think it'd be sweet to set up things this way.

Does anyone know how to implement something like this?
This was one of the options I discussed in my link above. The problems with this is that you're sharing a home directory over a network. If you're wired that's great, but wireless access isn't nearly as fast. Also computer 1 needs to be on for you to log in or you'll get a SPOD. The last reason I didn't try this option is that my laptop wouldn't have any files outside of the network.
-Toyin
13" MBA 1.8ghz i7
"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
Simon X
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Feb 27, 2003, 09:26 AM
 
Originally posted by TC:
One other tip for people syncing 2 macs is to give firewire over ip a try.
I was always annoyed that I couldn't put my B&W G3 into firewire target mode, but with firewire over ip I get something similar. The transfer seems a lot faster than 100MB ethernet.
TC - Same set up as me TC. I too use my G3, and 2 extra internal HDs for backups (Home folder) and capture, though I just ordered 200GB Lacie FW HD for my TiBook. I've yet to try FW over IP.

Originally posted by jbelch3:
I'm currently using Synk. You can find it on Versiontracker. It's freeware (I think) and works great. It will sync any folders or drives. It always keeps the newer copy of a file (You can keep the older dated copy of a file in the archive).
jbelch3 - Same here. Synk works fine. I don't know about you but I've automated Synk by setting a cron job to run a Synk Run file daily. This cron job is set as root.
     
eno
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Feb 27, 2003, 09:53 AM
 
Many of us own a desktop and laptop... yet still, in 2003, the issue of syncing them is a thorny one.

If they were always in the same place, I'd suggest netbooting the laptop from the desktop...

But that's not realistic with a laptop, so you have to do some kind of periodic syncing.

Even something as simple as keeping mail in sync is a nightmare. What do you do if you download a message on the laptop in the morning, and then one on the desktop in the afternoon? If you sync the maildirs from the laptop to the desktop, you'll lose the message downloaded to the desktop; and the reverse occurs when you try it the other way.

The answer? Leave all email on the IMAP server? Yuck. I have nearly 800MB in ~/Library/Mail. I ain't leaving all that on the server...

You can't even leave you desktop on all day downloading email, while roaming with the laptop reading email off the server (without deleting it from the server), because chances are the desktop will download the messages before you can read them...

And similar problems abound with respect to documents, software etc...

In the end, I made it so that I *only* read email on the desktop... and I sync documents everytime I want to work on something... and pretty much I only bother to keep one machine (the desktop) up-to-date with software.

There has to be an easier way... or, at least, there *should* be an easier way.
     
JB72
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Feb 27, 2003, 08:05 PM
 
Ok so far I've heard these mentioned:

- Synk

- ExecutiveSync

- Synchronize X (Plus and Pro)

Can I get some opinions from people? I've got to choose one of the three eventually.

tia

     
Toyin
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Feb 27, 2003, 09:33 PM
 
Originally posted by JB72:
Ok so far I've heard these mentioned:

- Synk

- ExecutiveSync

- Synchronize X (Plus and Pro)

Can I get some opinions from people? I've got to choose one of the three eventually.

tia

I like Synchronize X Plus. It does what I need it to do. It synchronizes well between my Laptop and Desktop, and it backs up my Home folder to an external Firewire drive. It does have problems backing up some System files.

I can't speak about the other apps because I've never used them. I remember liking Executive Sync, but can't remember why I chose Synchronize X Plus over it.
-Toyin
13" MBA 1.8ghz i7
"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
JB72
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Feb 27, 2003, 11:49 PM
 
Thanks Toyin.

I'm hoping not to have to demo different synch software to much as it sounds like a potential organization disaster.

Any other opinions etc?

tiax2
     
mmurray
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Feb 28, 2003, 07:46 AM
 
Originally posted by TC:


I would really like to do a clean install of jaguar but I worry about losing something important. I recently logged into my machine using a root account and it felt a lot faster, I thought this might be linked to the lack of crap in the root's library/preferences. There was an application for OS 9 which would handle 3rd party extensions and preferences during a system update, anything similar for OS X? The other option was to label a clean system and you would then know 3rd party stuff as it didn't have the label.

Why not just do the archive and install option ?

If you want to test if your pref's are clogging things up you could always make a new account in System Preferences > Users and log into that. That way you would be sure the effect wasn't somehow because you had root priviliges.

Michael
     
Toyin
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Feb 28, 2003, 07:48 AM
 
You can definitely test out these applications. Duplicate a folder and use the programs to sync just that folder. Toss the folder when you've made your decision. Let us know which one you choose and why.
-Toyin
13" MBA 1.8ghz i7
"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
JB72
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Mar 1, 2003, 01:44 AM
 
Originally posted by Toyin:
You can definitely test out these applications. Duplicate a folder and use the programs to sync just that folder. Toss the folder when you've made your decision. Let us know which one you choose and why.
Thanks again Toyin. That's a good idea to make a test folder to synch. I'm going to try out Executive Synch first (it's cheaper,) when I get some extended free time.

I suppose I'll need to set up one of my home directories to share out files locally? Or how is this kind of thing typically accomplished?

tia x3
     
dfiler
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Mar 2, 2003, 02:16 PM
 
From an IT administrator's perspective, the concept of 'syncing' is to be avoided at all costs. Syncing is generally more work than to initially configure the machines to work off of some form of shared file system. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. In OS X, my recommendation would be to store all files and applications on only one computer. Applications and your home directory would be shared over the LAN.

As someone else pointed out, this will increase load and save times on documents and load time on applications. Yet, this is generally considered an acceptable trade-off.

In the sort run, synced machines will be more pleasant, simply being slightly more responsive. In the long run... it only takes one time of accidently syncing over their most recent files for users to prefer the non-synced method. Another benefit of centralized storage and applications is that you'll have space left over on the secondary machine for a _complete_ backup.
     
JeremyS  (op)
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Mar 2, 2003, 03:55 PM
 
Thanks guys, good points.

I am leaning towards the non-syncing method because like you say, it only takes one screw up and well your screwed

Thanks for your input!

Hopefully Apple will bless us with something like iSync Extreme that will sync everything.
     
Putta
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Mar 2, 2003, 09:40 PM
 
having spoken with a lot of mac and pc users, there would be real demnad for what you call isync extreme.... Now, if they made the Mail database in such a way that you could do incremental back ups, Entourage would be in the trash quicker than you can imagine!

Rohan
     
Toyin
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Mar 2, 2003, 09:52 PM
 
I just wanted to point out a few things:

1. I've tried running applications and working with documents off of my LAN and it is significantly slower because my 2nd machine is airported.


2. If all your machines are hardwired I agree the most elegant solution is to share applications and home folder, but what happens when you want to take your laptop away from the LAN? Sure you can take files you may need (which is already more work), but what about other files you don't foresee needing?

3. Synchronization software is smarter than we'll ever be. At least with synchronize plus, you get a list of all files to be copied and deleted and it has arrows showing which way copies are being made. It also tells you when any file has been changed on both machines. At that point you can save the files into a conflicts folder or just overwrite the older file.

4. Using one machine and backing up from the last used machine is more dangerous than syncing. It requires you know exactly which files were most recently changed and it also requires that all the files modified be from one machine, unless you're manually moving files back and forth (which is also a ton of work)

5. Backing up is key and should not be replaced by synchronization. A 100gb firewire drive can be bought for <$200 which will buy not only some security but peace of mind as well.
( Last edited by Toyin; Mar 3, 2003 at 10:42 AM. )
-Toyin
13" MBA 1.8ghz i7
"It's all about the rims that ya got, and the rims that ya coulda had"
S.T. 1995
     
JB72
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Mar 16, 2003, 04:41 AM
 
Originally posted by dfiler:
From an IT administrator's perspective, the concept of 'syncing' is to be avoided at all costs. Syncing is generally more work than to initially configure the machines to work off of some form of shared file system. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. In OS X, my recommendation would be to store all files and applications on only one computer. Applications and your home directory would be shared over the LAN.
I agree with you absolutely in theory. However, my main task is to keep a notebook and an MDD workstation synched. I'd mostly be screwed out on the road with that setup. Unless I figured out a way to duplicate my user folder for when I needed to travel, but that's a whole other headache.

----------------

OK I had some time this afternoon to play with some sync apps. Here are my initial thoughts:

Synchronize X! Plus

A really nice program. The best of the bunch. But it's costly. Plus the interface makes me feel as though I should be using System 8.5 and wearing a Members Only jacket.

Executive Sync

Overall pretty good. The layout seems very counterintuitive and redundant in some areas. The worst problem is that it is dog slow, and seriously lacks the Snappy. It's like a RealBasic or Java feeling. It needs a "Powered by Grandma" web badge. Plus it has no auto synch feature, no auto-mount. Does the job for a lot less than Synchronize X! Plus (btw, who's in charge of naming over there?) charges though.

File Synchronization

This french cat surprised me with this one. Cocoa, multi-threaded, and it knows about Snappy. It's only $9! Sadly, can't use it because it doesn't support filtering of files and folders, yet. I see a lot of potential here though.

Oh, and if any of you graphic studs want to earn some extra karma by doing some pro bono, head over here and help this guy make a proper icon. Oh man it's hurtin' (ironic, it's the French guy who makes an effecient, useful, low cost application yet can get the art right .)



I have to say that so far my experiences with OS X synch apps haven't been very good. I see a lot of room for improvement. In fact, I think I needs to write Apple and beg for a GUI front-end for rsync

I'll check back in with my final decision after some more expirimentation.
     
JB72
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Mar 16, 2003, 02:40 PM
 

iMsafe is built on top of RsyncX and is licensed under the GNU-GPL: http://rsync.samba.org/GPL.html. The source code can be downloaded at: http://homepage.mac.com/sweetcocoa/imsafesource.sit.
OK. This one looks promising. Polished cocoa + open source = the kind of software I like to support. I'll give it an evaluation later.
     
Truepop
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Mar 16, 2003, 10:39 PM
 
well if you wanted an iPod now you have a reason too.

From my home to work I use my iPod to transfer stuff. True that if both were on the same network or I wanted to put more thought in to it I would just do some drive mounting and maybe some niffty programs

But ... Man ... a reason to get an iPod ... You just can't pass that up.

I only get things that have more than one good reason to have. hence i got a mac. does everything out of the box. iPod Music and Files. Cool.
     
mrwalker
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Mar 17, 2003, 08:46 AM
 
I keep all current work on my Powerbook, and back it up to my cube. If I'm working on the cube - because it has a bigger monitor & more RAM - I have the Powerbook connected via ethernet and work with the files on the laptop hard disk.

I use Transmit (www.panic.com) to sync folders if ever it needs to be done; Transmit is cheaper than most of the other sync apps and has the advantage of being a really good FTP program too.

For music, I have an ipod which keeps itself current with the large hard disk on the cube. I use an applescript called OpenPod (http://homepage.mac.com/beweis/) to import the files from the ipod into iTunes on the Powerbook, keeping the files on the ipod. This saves hard disk space on the Powerbook and you can still burn CDs etc.

I have a webdav server running on the cube, which I use to upload iCal calendars from the powerbook, although they're read only on the cube.

The only problem I have is keeping contacts in sync, as I don't have a .mac account. I have a sync'd copy on the ipod and on my phone (T39), but not on the Powerbook. Any ideas?

-mrwalker
     
Bobby
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Mar 17, 2003, 04:22 PM
 
I had to deal with this for many years, starting in the pre-9 days...

The first time I had 2 Macs was when I had a Performa 6290 and a PowerBook 1400. Interesting to note with this combination the 1400 was a *little* faster than the 6290 (not that this made any difference). Basically it was a painful process to start with. Somewhere down the line I used some program called Personal Backup or something like that, which allowed me to keep files in my document folders synced, which worked fairly well...

Applications were harder, basically I had to keep a folder where I copied installers or updates to apps and use this as one of the synched folders. It was still painful though, and it was easy for me to delete an installer sometime after a sync and forget to update on one of the computers...

This changed with VersionTracker Pro, however. Between it and the backup program I could keep everything current. Though occasionally I would miss installing an application I downloaded on one of the machines.

I later had the problem between an iMac and a Blueberry iBook, with the same solution through 9.

In X the problem re-surfaced. There is the Personal Backup (or whatever it was called) under X, but if I recall correctly I seriously did NOT want the X version. I used some other sync program which did the same thing with comparing folders and correcting any files with mismatched dates.

The biggest problem with this, however, is that if you have a file that you edit on one machine, then make a different change on another, if you don't remember this and don't fix it manually first, the sync program will usually give an error. Even when this happened I occasionally would select one to be deleted and replaced with the other, and ended up loosing data. I used VersionTracker Pro on these as well, and it worked well. But I did have a regular problem with not installing an application or utility on the other system if I put it on one. It was hard to keep track of what I installed where and if I went though with installing on another machine...


I do NOT currently have any of these problems any more, however, because I got a new iBook 14", which is a ton faster than my old iMac and iBook combined!!! I'm hoping one day I get a new iMac too, but in this respect I'm not looking forward to it due to this problem re-surfacing...

There are also other problems such as bookmarks in browsers, however I do recall downloading a program that actually would sync bookmarks, with an iSync looking interface. Though I downloaded this shortly before getting my iBook, so I do not believe I ever used it...
     
TC
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Mar 18, 2003, 09:36 AM
 
I would like some software which would do a number of things.

The main problem I have with my Powerbook is that I just run out of space too quickly. I would like to be able to save projects which aren't current on my B&W which has loads of hard disk space. But I would also like to be able to synchronize any current projects I have on my Powerbook to make sure I don't lose any changes.

The only software I have ever used which does something like this was Visual Source Safe on the PC. Sure you could do something similar with CVS, just needs a nice front end.

I hope that the guy they hired from Be is working his ass of on improving the Mac filesystem. Hopefully in the future it'll be much easier to do searches for changed files and be able to tag things related to projects.

Finally something I thought about ages ago. Could a piece of backup software tie into the journaling system to quickly find out which files have been changed since the last backup?
Nothing to see, move along.
     
alex_kac
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Sep 22, 2003, 02:58 PM
 
OK, I'm primarily a desktop Mac user, but I also have a shining new 1.25 15'' laptop that I like to use when away from my main office.

What I'd like the BEST utility for synchronizing my home directories, while filtering out files that make no sense synching (like movies or some parts of the prefs, etc).

I'm trying "File Synchronization" and it works well.......but its a bit limited and is very slow as it uses a brute force method. However, it is VERY inexpensive.

But I'm looking for the best. I am using iSync for the basic info.

So I've been reading this thread...but it never seemed to actually get into any final opinion.

So 6 months later - how are things now?
     
gscarich
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Sep 9, 2004, 03:44 PM
 
Originally posted by mrwalker:


I use Transmit (www.panic.com) to sync folders if ever it needs to be done; Transmit is cheaper than most of the other sync apps and has the advantage of being a really good FTP program too.


The only problem I have is keeping contacts in sync, as I don't have a .mac account. I have a sync'd copy on the ipod and on my phone (T39), but not on the Powerbook. Any ideas?

-mrwalker
Can you use Transmit to synchronize from one installed drive to another? I seem only to be able to see local hard drives on the left and servers on the right.

Re: Contacts. Can you use your phone as the intermediary. I use my Palm that way. Sync Palm contacts to computer 1 (desktop) then Palm to computer 2 (laptop).

I read this thread looking for back-up/sync solutions. I need to take the plunge. Doing it by manually is not good enough. I've purchased the large FireWire hard drive, now need software. Thanks to all who posted here.
----------
Near LA in Hermosa Beach
     
TimmyDee51
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Cambridge
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Sep 9, 2004, 03:57 PM
 
Originally posted by eno:
If they were always in the same place, I'd suggest netbooting the laptop from the desktop...
I realize this is an old part of this thread, but I wanted to clear it up before anyone tries NetBooting their second computer from their first. NetBooting requires OS X Server. You must set up a completely separate and static image that is returned to its original, pristine state on each reboot. "NetBooting" from your home Pathner/Jaguar/Puma/whatever client is not possible, and if it was it would not give you the desired results. NetBooting is great for such things as classrooms or distributing builds/loadsets and other static/restorable computing needs. It is not a synchronization scheme.
Per Square Mile | A blog about density
     
jessejlt
Mac Enthusiast
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Sep 9, 2004, 04:27 PM
 
It's a total pain in the arse man. I've given up on keeping my PB and iMac synced. I've decided to just wait until Tiger comes out and put that built-in syncing engine to work.
     
bergy
Mac Enthusiast
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Canada, Planet Earth
Status: Offline
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Sep 10, 2004, 09:28 PM
 
Here are some synching apps to look at

I use Imsafe ... love it

iMsafe
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/8874

Tri - Backup
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/4874

Backup? .. How To
http://www.macworld.com/2004/06/secr...gmac/index.php
Tiger 10.4.8
     
   
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