File Transporter – A Gift to Myself

Each year I buy myself a nice Christmas present to end the year. It’s almost always a piece of technology or a gadget I really want but that’s just a bit to expensive to buy on a regular shopping day in between the bread and beans.

Last year I bought an iPad mini, the year before a new Apple TV, a Mac mini Server the year before and a few years ago a Nespresso machine, and so on. That last one accidentally proves that it’s entirely possible to give yourself something aweful.

This year I’ve decided to go for a File Transporter, a network drive that’s supposed to be a Dropbox replacement. It won’t arrive for a couple of days, but I’m writing down a feature list of what Dropbox currently offers for me, and which ones I want to replace with the Transporter. I’m not sure if they’re all possible, but hey, that’s 90% of the fun of a new gadget, exploring what’s possible.

Feature list

File Syncing (a.k.a. the obvious one)

I currently use Dropbox to sync data between my Mac and my server, and I’ve got a couple of shared folders to easily transfer images and files to friends and clients. My current Dropbox folder is 160GB, with about 80% of that passive storage I don’t really need everyday. Im planning of moving all my data to my Transporter and use that as my main Cloud Storage.

One of the issues I have with Dropbox is that you either download a folder on your Mac, or you don’t. But you can’t access Dropbox as a remote volume. In an ideal scenario I’m going to download a complete local copy of my Transporter-data on my Server, and a copy of only the actively used folders on my MacBook. The full mirror allows for an on- and offsite backup of my files via Time Machine and Crashplan. And the selective sync on my MacBook gives me some much needed free space on my MacBook, with the Transporter Library function as a way to access all my files when I’m online.

Technically this all seems to be possible, but theory and practice aren’t always aligned.

Photo Upload

My iPhone currently uploads my images to the Camera Uploads folder in Dropbox. From there on I move them to dedicated folders in the Photos folder, after editing them or deleting the bad ones.

The folks at Connected Data promised automatic background updating, but in the meanwhile I’ll probably use a combination of Dropbox and Hazel to keep the same system running: iPhone - Upload with Dropbox - Camera Uploads - Hazel move files - File Transporter Photos Folder

Although in theory I could also use Files Connect to upload directly to a shared Transporter folder over SMB. We’ll see where this one goes once I get it all up and running.

Database Syncing

1Password, TextExpander, Alfred, Day One, Drafts use Dropbox as a way to store and sync preferences. I’m not going to complicate things by trying to outsmart those guys, so I’ll keep my Dropbox account active for those apps. They don’t use a lot of space, so a free 7GB account (thanks to all the freebies and referrals) should suffice to cover those needs.

Since Editorial also syncs to Dropbox, I’m going to keep that app synced to Dropbox as well. I’ll try to create a symlink between Editorial’s source folder, and a Transporter folder on my server. Seems like a fun hack to play around with.

Staging Area

I have an Inbox folder in Dropbox that stores all files I didn’t get to organize yet. It’s the default download location for every app on both my MacBook and my Server. The server has a lot of Hazel-magic running on that folder, and I dumb files to that folder from iOS via the Open in.. share option and picking Dropbox so I can manage them later on when I get back to my Mac. And honestly, I haven’t got a clue if and how I’m going to replicate this behaviour. I can’t seem to find wither the Transporter iOS app has an Open In.. hook, and if I can easily point all my apps to that folder. I guess that’s one I have to find out while using it. But in the meanwhile, I’ll keep my Inbox on Dropbox.

File Access on iOS

The Dropbox app on iOS is really slick, fast and responsive and can handle Quick Look for most common file types. And the Dropbox servers are fast. In theory the Transporter app has those same features, but I’m really curious to see it’s speed and stability in real life usage.

Plan of action

Feature-wise it’ll probably sort itself out. There’ll be a few bumps in the road, but the end-result will be a self-hosted Dropbox without any monthly fees and an “unlimited” amount of storage.

The last thing I’m worryng about is data-integrity. I tested a self-hosted cloudstorage solution a while back that cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war on my files. So this time I’ll be a lot more careful. I’ll probably use my server to coordinate all data-migration. I’ll copy folder per folder over to the Transporter and give it time to sync and cache everything. Once copied over, I’ll first download the data to the Transporter folder on the server. Then, when everything is copied and in sync, I’m going to do a full on- and offsite backup off all data. And then, only then, can I delete the data from Dropbox. My MacBook at that point will also have erased all Dropbox files except for the Camera Uploads and Inbox folder. All that’s left is installing the Transporter app on my MacBook and pick a couple of folders to sync.

It’s complicated, and maybe I’m overthinking it but…

  • Han Solo: Here's where the fun begins.
  • Obi-Wan: How long before you can make the jump to light speed?
  • Han Solo: It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer.
  • Luke: Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining...?
  • Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it.