Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dropbox versus Spideroak

I've been messing around a bit more with Linux lately, Arch Linux to be exact, and I'm getting ready to set up Ubuntu on my primary desktop (Blender+audio keeps crashing in Windows), in a dual-boot setup.

I have many computers that I use near-simultaneously. The first problem with this kind of setup is bookmarks. When I stop to look something up, I usually end up bookmarking a link. Unfortunately, that bookmark is only on one of my many PCs, so when I want to find something I saved I have to search multiple PCs. I finally looked around and found an online service that syncs bookmarks. FoxMarks is the one I ended up using. It's now called Xmarks, by the way.

I had been working on the same set of documents on all these computers, keeping them on a USB thumb drive. It occurred to me that there must be some service that syncs files automatically online (just a few word processing files and tools) like Xmarks syncs bookmarks. I searched and found a few.

I first used BeInSync, which seems to have disappeared. Or it was bought out, closed down, and I wasn't notified. That's a bit disconcerting because I paid for a year of it's service less than a year ago. The reason I didn't notice when it happened was because I had already switched to Dropbox for all my file syncing needs. BeInSync was okay, it did what it said it would, but it didn't have any Linux compatibility, and it didn't save older revisions of files. Dropbox excels at both.

Once I started using Arch Linux, I read a few tutorials on getting Dropbox working in Xfce with Thunar (instead of Nautilus) and it was beyond my Linux capabilities. I looked at Spideroak, and got it running immediately, all I had to do was build the package and install it. No messing, no scripts.

XP nLited boots faster than Arch, if you can believe it, and I decided that proper GUIs for CPU stepping and hotkeys were also fairly important. It's a a bit of a pain to have to play with command lines in order to get the Super Hybrid Engine on the setting I want. These are all reasons why I'm back to XP on my 901, and therefore also back to Dropbox. I liked Spideroak, I just liked Dropbox better. The things I liked about Dropbox, though, might be things that make others prefer Spideroak.

Both are free for syncing 2GB's worth of files--2GB total size, not 2GB data transfer. Both have options to pay for a larger size, both save revisions (I think), both sync pretty well.

Linux setup aside, Dropbox is less hassle. On installed it configures itself to start up when Windows does, Spideroak doesn't. Dropbox seems to notice immediately when a file is altered and starts syncing immediately, Spideroak scans the preset directories every X minutes (5 minutes being the shortest time). Everything you sync with Dropbox is also available by logging in through your browser, with Spideroak you set up online backups separately from syncing. Spideroak seems to be for the more security-minded. Everything is encrypted. They don't even have your password on file, it's your own private encryption key.

I only set up Spideroak's sync features, I didn't try backing files up or sharing them online. The syncing worked good, although I did thinkg it was working when it wasn't even running, right after turning on my computer. That's a quick fix, though. The actual syncing seems to take longer than Dropbox, because they encrypt everything before it's sent to their servers.

Spideroak also seems to hang on step 3 of it's first run setup. I don't know if I'm just impatient or if there was a problem with the way I set things up, but it really took a long time on all three PCs I tried it on.

I will be keeping my eye on Spideroak in the future. It is a good service, the price is right, and it's easier to set up than Dropbox on Linux, but as long as I'm on Windows only I'll be sticking with the click-and-forget ease of Dropbox.



  1. I also like Dropbox. Recently I found out how to get 2.25GB for free instead of just 2GB. When you sign-up use a ref link such as this one

  2. We are using Dropbox with our company (6) since a year. We upgraded to 50gb and we love it. It is superfast and once you are accustomed to the dropbox folder and for example the public folder, it just makes live easier.