How to add file versions/history to iFolder

I’ve been using iFolder for about a month now and am pretty satisfied with the performance and features, but there is one feature I dearly miss: having access to older versions of a file.  To work around this problem I simply created a SVN repository for every iFolder user.  This allows the users to “check in” files whenever they want to save a specific version of a file, they can tell SVN to ignore directories that they don’t need or want in the SVN system. And you can easily browse through the history of a file, pulling up versions from specific dates, or seeing what changed when in the file (obviously not for binary data).

I am fully aware that SVN may be a bit overkill and that I am only using a very small subset of the SVN features, but on the other hand it is very easy to set up, and there are clients for all the major OS out there that integrate seamlessly into the file managers. So even if I don’t need all the bells and whistles it does what I need it to do without any worries.

As with all workarounds this of course brings some limitations and implications with it.

  • First of all you will only have the history of a file on systems with a svn client, so no history if you are accessing the files via webinterface.
  • Situations where multiple people have access to the same files must be set up in the same consellation in SVN to ensure all users have access to file histories
  • Due to the usage of two systems (iFolder and SVN) the files will be stored in both systems
Depending on your setup and needs the implications may turn out to be a dealbreaker. But if not it may be a viable “addon” to add some features you otherwise missed. I’m not going to go into “how to setup SVN”, since anything I write would be tuned to a specific installation. Just use google, there are plenty of Howtos out there, just find the one that meets your system.

Using iFolder as an open source Dropbox alternative

I’ve had a few posting here in my blog over the years about trying to keep data synced over various computers. Nowadays it has gotten easier since it seems everyone is chruning out their own online storage. Classics like Dropbox or SugarSync, and then we have the big companies  Google, Microsoft and Ubuntu trying their luck. Basically they all provide you with 2-5Gb free storage, and more space and features for more money. But they all have one downside, whether encrypted or not, you are leaving your own files to the mercy of an external company. There is not really any voodoo in the whole system, basically you just have some space online, a bit of encryption, and some way to ensure that all clients of a user are synced, nonetheless building your own service can be a hassle as I have found out.

Currently I’m using SVN as a workaround. I just sometimes forget to commit, which leads to me having old data and no access to updated files. Instead of starting from scratch and build strange stuff with rsync I had a look if there were any open source solutions out there. And I was pleased to find a few. Unfortunately they are almost all in the “I have an idea and a few mockups” stage, maybe even some beta version that does something, but nothing really “production” level. Another downside was that most of them either supported Linux or Windows, but often not both.

One open source solution I stumbled across is iFolder,  seasoned software supported by Novell, with clients for Windows, Linux and Mac. And if all else fails you can use the web interface to access your files. Admin and User web interface are both easy to use. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I do know that it’s not one of the main products you see named when searching for alternatives to Dropbox.

If you have SuSE as an OS, then installing the software is immensely simplified due to SuSE belonging to Novell, just follow the SuSE instructions on the website. I prefer debian based installations and found Ubuntu instructions at that were written mainly for Ubuntu, but should work with any debian deviate.

I’m not going to repeat anything from the installation instructions, they already did a fine job of documenting everything. One thing is important however: the Client just plain doesn’t work. unfortunately it is the one linked from the website. Go to the sourceforge repository, and download the newer 3.8.03 client. That one works like a charm.