iCloud Sync

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kewms
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:34 pm Post

I've got the Pro version of Dropbox and it only consumes 190 MB on my system.

I would expect that most of the new features are implemented on the server side, which wouldn't affect local memory usage at all.

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Silverdragon
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:40 pm Post

Mine jumped to 500Gb with the latest update...
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xiamenese
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:01 pm Post

Silverdragon wrote:Mine jumped to 500Gb with the latest update...

GB or MB :shock:

:)

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AmberV
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:10 pm Post

RAM usage is going to vary based on usage and other factors that have to do with how the operating system itself manages it. But here are some numbers for perspective:

  • Firefox: 2.5gb
  • Scrivener (editing a few large projects): 1.25gb
  • MailMate (my email client): 605mb
  • Scapple (who would call that bloated): 294mb
  • Sublime Text (a simple coding editor) 179mb.
  • SpiderOak ONE: 160mb.
  • iCloud (difficult to say, because it is coiled all over the placed and takes a dozen processes to do what other programs do with one, but on a test account, I don’t let this monster anywhere near my real data to be clear): 145mb (280mb with the iCloud System Preference panel open, for some reason).

Moral of the story: software running on a Mac is pretty expensive. I wouldn’t get too hung up over it unless your system is slowing down, and then there are probably going to be a good list of things worth restarting first, before worrying about Dropbox.

But hey, at least you can restart it, or shut it down if need be. Good luck trying to do that with the “simple” iCloud. ;)
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:20 pm Post

xiamenese wrote:
Silverdragon wrote:Mine jumped to 500Gb with the latest update...

GB or MB :shock:

:)

Mark

MB. :oops:
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:32 pm Post

I don't think it is unreasonable for someone offering a free service subsidized by a premium paid service to put more limits on the free service as time goes by.
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kewms
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:48 pm Post

devinganger wrote:I don't think it is unreasonable for someone offering a free service subsidized by a premium paid service to put more limits on the free service as time goes by.


"Reasonable" or not, it's certainly not unusual.

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Brammy
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 2:10 am Post

xiamenese wrote:On my !3" MBP, I have 8GB memory, of which Dropbox consumes 194Mb; it's more than Sync, but is hardly "bloated".

Mark

The point I was trying to illustrate is that Dropbox is way more than just a sync service now with the Slack et al integration.

I don't have much of a problem with the price increase because it includes the Smart Sync stuff. I am, however, taking an honest evaluation on if keeping Dropbox makes sense for me with the improvements to iCloud.

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Sat Jun 22, 2019 5:37 am Post

Brammy wrote:I am, however, taking an honest evaluation on if keeping Dropbox makes sense for me with the improvements to iCloud.

For me the big difference lies in reliability. My iCloud Drive stopped updating itself completely on my Macs in April last year. Apple didn’t know why and couldn’t fix it. Then it all started to work again in early January. Sometimes it syncs superfast, sometimes slower than a snail. Dropbox has never caused me any problem whatsoever.
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:31 am Post

lunk wrote:
Brammy wrote:I am, however, taking an honest evaluation on if keeping Dropbox makes sense for me with the improvements to iCloud.

For me the big difference lies in reliability. My iCloud Drive stopped updating itself completely on my Macs in April last year. Apple didn’t know why and couldn’t fix it. Then it all started to work again in early January. Sometimes it syncs superfast, sometimes slower than a snail. Dropbox has never caused me any problem whatsoever.


Mmm. I've found iCloud sync to be rock solid on the four devices connected to it. The apps sync seamlessly, even when they're open on different machines. I can't really speak for the reliability of Dropbox as I don't use it for anything other than Scrivener, My experience (especially with very large projects) is that the syncing is not exactly seamless (I have spent a good few hours sifting through files to sort clashes because I'd forgotten to sync on one device, or because Scrivener had been unable to shut itself down for some reason).

To be honest, I don't really have much of a problem with Dropbox; it is what it is, and if the cost of iCloud syncing is a complete rewrite of Scrivener from the ground up (and I am certainly not saying that this is Apple's fault) then I'm not sure if such a move would be worth just for iCloud syncing, especially if I still have to keep one eye on the syncing process while I'm trying to write.

Scrivener came about before Apple really knew what Cloud was. Apps such as Ulysses (the rebuilt version) had the advantage of being later to the game, just as Apple was getting its house in order, and Ulysses (and again, I'm not saying this is a bad thing) does much less.
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AmberV
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:31 am Post

Brammy wrote:The point I was trying to illustrate is that Dropbox is way more than just a sync service now with the Slack et al integration.


If that is your problem with Dropbox, have you looked at the huge list of bloated things that iCloud handles? :) It sprawls as badly as iTunes.

iCloud is a complicated and over-engineered monster. I alluded to it above, but just because Apple hides this thing inside the operating system does not make it a slick, lightweight and cool. What that really means is that you have no choice in whether it is installed or not, and they can sprawl it deep into stuff that sync should have no business messing with in my opinion—and I state that as an ethical concern as well as a technical one. Just look at it this way: you have to give Dropbox permission to look at your photos. Did you give iCloud permission to do anything? Apple doesn’t ask permission, they just upload your address book to the Internet like that’s cool to do, whereas in most cases we’d call that spyware.

But Dropbox integrates with a development toolkit, so it is clunky and bloated—abandon ship. Sure, sure.

Now the 3-device account limit on their freebie service, yeah I get the grumbles there (despite the whole Gift Horse Mouth bit), and like I say I get the preference aspect, that is fine. But technical arguments for Dropbox being worse than iCloud just make my eyebrows rise.

Clearly, Apple is really good at selling stuff, while Dropbox does not care so much about that kind of thing. Now to a person like myself, that is actually not a point in Apple’s case; Bose is good at selling things too.

Rayz wrote:Mmm. I’ve found iCloud sync to be rock solid on the four devices connected to it. The apps sync seamlessly, even when they’re open on different machines.


The problem to my mind, and the thing to pay attention to with this kind of technology, is not the affirmations of when it works correctly, but what happens when it does not. Because what happens when it fails is what we have to prepare for even when it seems to work fine for years. We post advisories about not using Google Drive even though the failure rates are a fraction of the people who use it (many of whom have used it for years). But because those fail states happen often enough, and because their condition is so catastrophic, we warn people away from the service entirely.

Now for iCloud, I can confirm some of the behaviour I have seen lunk describing (I have never used it long enough to see anything like extended outages). I have created isolated test accounts using iCloud throwaway accounts, and with a few simple steps, made in under two hours (mostly because iCloud was so slow that every test took ages) I was able to observe the following alarming or detrimental behaviours:

  • A tiny change to a Scapple file (editing one note), resulted in a 45 minute wait for the file to sync. In the meantime if I had not realised that and assumed iCloud were as snappy as other services, I would have conflicted the file.
  • Changes were made to .txt files on an offline system, while an online system made changes to those same files. When the offline system was brought online, iCloud not only did not alert me to the fact that there were conflicts, it obliterated one set of the modified files. They were not in Trash, they were not archived anywhere (as far as I can tell, iCloud has no safety net like Dropbox’s deleted files for file versioning systems, but I am no expert), and since iCloud is so complicated and makes your actual file storage locations opaque, getting to where the files are at the system level to try and find backups was extremely difficult. The modifications were just gone.

    So yeah, that is kind of more seamless in the fact that you are not presented with the fruits of your own errors, but err… :lol:
  • The above was an extreme condition, iCloud does also handle conflicts (when it manages to detect them). If you edit a Scrivener project in two locations, or fumble the timing in waiting for it to fully sync (and good luck knowing when it is done if you do not use Finder much). Its method for handling them means duplicating the entire project and having to somehow figure out what is different between the two copies (or worse, you reflexively mess up and click one of the buttons to choose A or B instead of keeping both, and again irrevocably lose one of the conflict copies).

For myself, this kind of catastrophic failure over a rather common misuse scenario is something I have a “One Strike You’re Out” policy on. When I saw iCloud destroy data, that was it. I had no interest in that system and I never will. I have never seen any other sync technology do anything like that, and every other sync tool I have tested has extensive safety nets built in, like archival folders, versioning and trash-buffer systems. Maybe iCloud is better now than it was when I tested it—but like I say, at this point I do not care and I never will, because any system published with the flaws I saw has said enough about itself.

…My experience (especially with very large projects) is that the syncing is not exactly seamless (I have spent a good few hours sifting through files to sort clashes because I’d forgotten to sync on one device, or because Scrivener had been unable to shut itself down for some reason).


This is the same sort of thing you would have to do with iCloud if you messed up—but as I pointed out above, the experience is a whole lot more opaque and difficult to recover from.

Dropbox:

  1. You open Scrivener and it alerts you to the fact that Dropbox has created duplicate conflict files.
  2. They are imported into the binder into one convenient location and cross-referenced to the items they are associated with if possible, making it easy to compare the two copies side by side.

iCloud:

  1. You end up with two whole copies of the project.
  2. And then what? Well, I guess you can search by “mdate:<2d” or something to find everything modified in the past two days then methodically trawl through the list one by one.

In neither case would I say these outcomes are evidence of a lack of reliability in either system. They are symptoms of improper usage of them, and their own individual mechanisms for coping with said usage. Neither case is going to be fun to recover from, but at least Dropbox lets you know precisely what went wrong instead of “hey, somewhere in this 80,000 file trove you have here, a sentence within one file triggered a conflict, have fun finding it”.

…and if the cost of iCloud syncing is a complete rewrite of Scrivener from the ground up (and I am certainly not saying that this is Apples fault) then I’m not sure if such a move would be worth just for iCloud syncing, especially if I still have to keep one eye on the syncing process while I’m trying to write.


One thing worth noting is that rewriting Scrivener from the ground up is a euphemism for gutting pretty much all of the things that make it a unique tool for writers, with regards to large-scale research and text storage. We’re talking turning Scrivener into Yet Another Single File Text Editor, with all of the limitations that come with storing 200,000 words in a single file (and nothing much beyond those words, no research).

The other thing worth noting, and I see this misconception all over the place, is that unless Scrivener were gutted, then if we’re speaking of a hypothetical universe wherin Apple finally adds safe and simple support for bulk folder+file sync, using the iOS protocols—nothing would likely change about the procedure.

What people refer to as “clunky” with Dropbox is more the technical limitations of the platform they are choosing to write with: a scalable system that isn’t fettered by single-document limitations. They are in essence blaming the road for being bumpy while choosing to use a vehicle that uses tracks instead of wheels and suspension. If Scrivener supported iCloud as the tool that it is, then you would be driving on a different highway with a different Brand Name, but it likely wouldn’t feel any different, because in this vehicle driving on a road feels about about the same as driving over a field of boulders.

The point is: try doing the latter in a lightweight electric with 4cm of clearance. You can’t, and that’s why Scrivener is what it is and not a gutted version of itself solely so that it can use the A-50 as well as the AC-14 highway. Scrivener can hoist a 250gb repository of research that encompasses a 10-year project to write a 300,000 word box set. Try that in NovelWritr Xtremist, or whatever.

Scrivener came about before Apple really knew what Cloud was.


True, but it is even further back then that—you’ve been around since the beginning so you know. Scrivener came out before anyone on the planet started using that jargon to refer to a centralised synchronisation network that keeps local content updated. Scrivener beta (post Gold) begin in the summer of 2006, and the inventors of this genre, Dropbox, published in the summer of 2007, around half a year after Scrivener hit 1.0. At that point of course, only geeks were messing with this thing, and criticising it for basically being a simple rsync clone for dummies.

It wasn’t really until Snow Leopard hit shelves (literally, with people lined up around stores made of blocks of stone and other physical matter, to buy it) that this was something typical people were using. That’s about when we posted an advisory on how to use “cloud” technology safely.

Around this period of time, if you preferred Apple technology you were (a) utterly mad and (b) using a MobileMe service called iDisk which is just a WebDAV folder in a GUI wrapper that was notoriously, and in this case actually, unreliable. At this point Dropbox was already two years old, and the clones were starting to appear.

Apple seemingly still did not understand what Dropbox was when iCloud was announced. The first iteration, launched four years after Dropbox hit the scene, was best described as a complete misunderstanding of what made Dropbox popular. It was also unethically used as a tool to bludgeon developers into adopting the Mac App Store, and thus siphoning revenue meant for developers into their own pockets (but I digress).

I go a bit into the history here not only to point out the differences in the companies that bring these two services to the market, but to raise another point: since around 2008 or 9 or so, when people start using this technology with Scrivener (and Dropbox was pretty much the only game in town), I have not seen a single technical failure on their part. I have seen an awful lot of people causing conflicted files, and some of that may be down to Scrivener faults (like the shutdown bug you saw), etc. But Dropbox itself actually deleting files or damaging data? Nope—it is probably one of the most solid pieces of technology I’ve seen mass usage of.

In conclusion, and importantly, I have no love for Dropbox, lest anyone think I’m a champion of it. They have issues with how they store data without encryption for instance, and I don’t like how you have to use one monolithic sync folder (at least without geeky workarounds). I have to use Dropbox a little bit, and for that I have a command-line tool that is about as complicated as wget. It doesn’t run in the background, I tell it to list X folder as one command, download Y as another and upload Z as a third command. I don’t have Dropbox on any of my iOS devices, either as the little viewer they make or enabled in any my software that supports it.

So I don’t like Dropbox! But I trust it, as technology, a lot more than anything iCloud. The way it works is simple and elegant. iCloud Drive is a Rube Goldberg machine, like much of Apple’s technology. It does 100 things where a simple switch would suffice. Apple’s really good at putting all of that into a box and making you think it is simple—but here’s the funny thing: even the box is over-engineered (again, in typical Apple fashion). I have an automatic distrust of anything that has so many working parts within it to do something that should be pretty basic. With Dropbox and most other sync systems, you give it a file and it handles the file from that point on. With iCloud, your system is hijacked; files deleted locally; those that remain are moved into mysterious hidden folders with obfuscated naming schemes; Finder is subverted to make it look like they are where they were—but other tools won’t see them; no permissions asked to start uploading personal data, etc.

So yup—I don’t get it when I hear people going on about how great iCloud is and how clunky Dropbox is. All I can say is what I said before: Apple is really good at selling things (and with a good dose of people conflating industrial strength workflows with the highway being used to transmit them, too, and wishfully thinking that if they used a differently branded highway, their tank would magically become a bicycle, and not realising what all they would lose by asking us to stop making tanks).
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Brammy
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:46 am Post

AmberV wrote:
If that is your problem with Dropbox, have you looked at the huge list of bloated things that iCloud handles? :) It sprawls as badly as iTunes.


This thread is becoming a "no good deed goes unpunished" kind of thing. Someone posted about why people feel Dropbox is "bloated" (tbh, I term I am not thrilled with), and I posted that a bunch of new changes are what probably are giving people that impression.

I don't really have a problem with Dropbox, I used to pay for the $20/month plan and recently backed down to the Plus plan. If I keep Dropbox, I get the smart sync stuff so it's a gain for me. I don't have a problem with them knocking the free plan down, although I can see someone who just uses it to sync Scrivener across several computers (and their iPad), and nothing else not being thrilled with it.

However, my general preference is to go first party for syncing, so that means iCloud is my first choice, and if I was on Windows, I'd go OneDrive first. That preference doesn't mean I don't use other services. I have a lot of scanned PDFs I don't care if they are on my local computer. Even the new iCloud doesn't have a way to tell the whole folder to just live on the cloud like I can with Dropbox.
Last edited by Brammy on Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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AmberV
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:01 pm Post

Apologies if I conflated your clarification in my response to the overall sentiment being expressed. :)

The short version of what I’m saying is: Dropbox might be have problems, but from where I’m sitting (as one who dislikes both options), iCloud does all of those problems as well, and then some. It just hides it better, and sells itself better.

However, my general preference is to go first party for syncing, so that means iCloud is my first choice, and if I was on Windows, I’d go OneDrive first.


Yeah that’s where I differ from most, in that I have an innate distrust of anything built into the OS. Just as with Internet Explorer, Safari, iTunes, Mail etc., I don’t think operating system development should be sprawling into consumer software and services because that inhibits innovation and growth of third-party development, and meanwhile it hampers and dillutes what OS developers should be spending their time on: the OS. First-party to me does not automatically spell “trustworthy”. It can be less trustworthy, such as the aforementioned lack of permission control and unfettered deep access to your entire system. There is alarm over how much Dropbox sees, but my goodness, what Apple sees goes all the way down to your fingerprint and tone of voice.

But where to draw that line can be a bit blurry, I’ll admit. Is automated backup something the OS should do? Well, maybe so. Is sync? Maybe so (though again I don’t trust corps with data, I use peer-to-peer for that or backups where I own the keys alone). Should they be messing with podcasts and email and stores that sell software? No, ew!

But as usual I’m going off topic. :D Saturday ramblings and all that.
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Ioa Petra'ka
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Brammy
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Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:10 pm Post

This preference is mainly because if I were to place a long-term bet on if Dropbox or Apple/MS will be around in x years, I'd place the bet on the 1st party solution. Also, since the built-in solution is free. I see some cost savings. $12 a month for Dropbox is reasonable, but once a bunch of these subscriptions add up we are talking real money.

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Sat Jun 22, 2019 1:13 pm Post

Hmm, on that score though, Apple does not have the best track record for sticking to what they started, or responsibly migrating users to their replacements when they move on. iTools, .Mac, MobileMe, iCloud, iCloud Drive—some of those transitions were not smooth, in some cases people got priced out by the replacement and lost access to their data, in other cases if you missed the memo you got your data deleted. There have been bugs, such as when Drive came out and clicking the checkbox to migrate your account would block access to your previously compartmentalised iCloud files.

So here as well I do not see an inherent level of trustworthiness simply because it is first party. It’s the party that matters.

But I think as pertinent to this topic, a good modern sync system should be maintaining your files on the disk, meaning the loss of that system is of no harm to you—all you remove is the automation. When I stopped using the Dropbox client several years ago, I was left with 100% of the data I had with it. The only material loss was that of convenience, and I no longer had that area of the drive updated automatically with any share folders.

Of course there is the “smart sync” model, or “optimisation” as Apple refers to it. In that case, one may well lose their files, or be faced with a lengthy download to retrieve them (and even confusing instructions on how to do so), and is likewise also no longer maintaining any backups of their data. So all around I’d say these smart sync options are a bad idea, save for stuff like collaborative file shares, where you may really have no need for everything in the share. In this realm I give the advantage to Dropbox. This potentially risky setting is opt-in and granular. Apple’s setting is opt-out by default, and is all-in, thus potentially risks all of your data (if you’re like the average user that puts everything into Documents or Desktop). Here is one of those areas where perceived simplicity can be end up leading to increased complexity (and heartache, say if your account is lost/hacked/et cetera).

Subscriptions are another matter. iCloud Drive isn’t free—at least not after a certain point, just like Dropbox. If you need more than the free level, Dropbox is €10/mo for 2TB and iCloud is €10/mo for the same. Slight advantage to iCloud for a higher base storage level for free—and neither free limit is anywhere near what a writer would consume if they mainly use it for storing writings. It’s mainly that device limit again, which I have no debate with it being a pity they went that route, especially at three. Where I kind of scratch my head though is that if one has four expensive electronic devices they need to sync all of the time, is €10/mo really the hill to die on?

…$12 a month for Dropbox is reasonable, but once a bunch of these subscriptions add up we are talking real money.


Yeah, that’s a legitimate problem. I’ll gladly pay a fee for services I require. Substriptionware on the other hand gets no second glance from me, and I think that’s where things are getting a little out of hand. I avoid all of that, not only out of general principle, but so these service-level expenses remain below the threshold of, as you put, real money.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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