Making my own ipad sync – and Day One without Dropbox

Update – This was so close, but not really workable, so I gave up. See these commentaries about how the sync had problems, and why I gave up on iOS and sold my ipad.
 

I have a very geeky commentary to offer. This is something I’ve been frustrated by and trying to solve, since I bought my ipad over a year ago. I’ve been using Macs for almost a decade now, and I like them. They do what I want, and when I want to manage things in some certain way I usually can. But now that folks have all these devices – iphones, ipads, other computers, suddenly you have to manage data, keep it up to date and easily accessible.

When I got my “new” refurbished iPad 2, I found out that Apple intends you to manage all your data via iCloud. There is a little bit of sync capability through iTunes, for backing up contacts and music and whatnot, but it’s not practical for files that get updated often, or need to be accessed through Mac or iPad.

Dropbox answers this pretty well, functionally. My issue is that I like to write lots of journals and notes to myself to keep my head clear, and while I don’t think anyone is after me, I am not comfortable with putting my personal jibberish out in the cloud. At least not the Dropbox and iCloud cloud. (SpiderOak seems pretty good.)

My favorite writing apps, especially Day One, only sync data through iCloud or Dropbox. I’ve tried to find other answers, and the best thing was Notebooks App, which creates its own little WebDAV server on your computer, so you can connect locally to that and sync files. This is amazing, and I love it. And it’s the only one with that kind of capability! So I use that along with Ulysses for writing a lot of things.

But just yesterday I found out that I can access the iPad file structure directly through a free program called iBrowse. It’s in the Application Data folder. I was able to copy journal entries back and forth manually, but of course that can get complicated when you’re making changes and adding new entries. And I could only access the file structure through the iBrowse app, not through the Finder.

But it was so close! This inspired my final solution, which required a jailbreak. That’s not my preference, because I’m wary of potential instabilities and vulnerabilities. But I’m not too worried. Here’s the final setup:

Jailbreak, install Netatalk (which is free).
Change the passwords to your ipad, as instructed in Netatalk, so external folks can’t access your system using the default passwords.

Next, a program that allows you to sync any two local folders you choose – the best I know of at the moment is FreeFileSync.

Then, connect and mount the system wirelessly through Finder, dig in and find the Day One (or whichever app) files. Mine were here:
/Volumes/root/var/mobile/Applications/(a whole bunch of numbers)/Library/Application Support/Journal.dayone/entries.

And then the corresponding folder on the Mac, which is wherever you choose, or the default in the Day One preferences.

In FreeFileSync you can save those paths, because who wants to dig through all those directories every time? Then compare, and then sync. I set mine to compare based on file content, not file time and size, personally, since that’s what important to me.

I think these capabilities should be easy and simple, not require a year’s research and a bunch of fiddling to have a system that works the way I want it to. But, I’d rather do the hacking than not be able to use my machines the way I like. So there we are…

And honestly, if I find a way to access those files in the Finder without Jailbreak, I’ll probably re-jail my iPad. Here’s hoping that things will become more open as people become more conscious of privacy and user flexibility on the interwebs.

Software References:
Day One – http://dayoneapp.com
Notebooks App – http://www.notebooksapp.com
Ulysses – http://www.ulyssesapp.com

Free File Sync – http://www.freefilesync.org
Cydia and PanGu – https://cydia.saurik.com, http://en.pangu.io
SpiderOak – https://spideroak.com

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