For years, I have had the utopian goal of a reliable, consistent, local file sync between my devices. Ever since the Infamous Ipad Fiasco of 2015, it has been my dream. My parameters: Local – not some other peoples’ servers on the cloud, like Dropbox. Not owned by a company that was going to scan and store all my data, like Apple or Google. Not a huge pain to setup and maintain. And functional. Should not be too much to ask, right? My machines, my data – seems pretty straightforward.
I have done much searching on this. Not long ago I tried to set up my old netbook running Debian as a Nextcloud server, before that it was Nextcloud on a Raspberry Pi. These seemed like great ideas but didn’t work well for me. Perhaps those machines were too slow to keep up, but they were never stable. They also have a lot of bells and whistles in the form of apps, which are great, but more than I need.
Recently however, I gave Syncthing a try. It’s beautiful. I’m very excited. It took only a few minutes to install – which is crazy after the hours I spent fiddling with Nextcloud. It’s not one central server that you sync to a folder on your machine. Instead, it is a decentralized sort of network – you link machines together and choose folders to share one machine to the other. If you have multiple machines and multiple folders on each machine it can easily become a spider web of syncing folders. But thus far, no problems.
You install it, start it up by typing ‘syncthing’ in a terminal, or through the application menu, it gets going and opens up a window like this in a browser. You add other devices and then select folders to share between them.
I set up my Ubuntu Mate laptop, which is what I use most, and synced my main documents folder to my old steady netbook running Debian 9. I have a smaller text notes folder that I sync to the netbook, my Android tablet, and my PocketChip mini computer, also running a version of Debian.
I will add my desktop computer, which has the most file space, to have a solid backup of all that. Ever since buying this ridiculous Macbook air, which doesn’t have a large enough hard drive for all my files, I have been juggling external harddrives and backups. It gets messy. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s on the path!
The only snag I hit is that when I was syncing files from a USB flash drive it seemed to change them to read only, so I’d have to eject and then mount the flash drive again to edit those files.
I just checked and it is in the Ubuntu Software Center – don’t know why I didn’t try that first. It’s the easy way, if you’re using an Ubuntu-based system.
Since I am fairly comfortable with installing software from the command line, I went this route: https://apt.syncthing.net/
Since I didn’t have a shortcut in the application menu, I opened MenuLibre and added a launcher – as simple as adding a new item with the command ‘syncthing’ and choosing a pleasant icon. You can turn on “run in terminal” if you want to see code whizzing by, or turn if off if you don’t want that terminal window open all the time (if you close it, it will close syncthing).
Syncthing is available on Windows, Mac and Linux, and Android (via FDroid – yay) though there’s no sign of an iOS app that I can see. https://syncthing.net/