Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sync storage with FTP – part 2

Already some weeks have passed since we took the decision to use GoogleDrive for Pro-Vélo Genève. But the task is not yet finished. Several problems arised, which I’m still trying to solve.

As it seems that it is missing some best practice guide on Google’ site, I leave here the experience and how we should have done better.

Test all OS

Only after the decision that other members of the association installed GoogleDrive. Bang, it failed to install on OSX 10.6, even though it is supported. I could not test or check myself if this can be circumvent.

Copy in a non-Windows machine

Windows has since its debuts with long file names (Windows 95?) a funny bug: you can have long names for files and folders, but once you want to copy them, there is a limit of 255 characters in the total of “path+filename”. Yes, this is still present on Windows 7.
I agree that it is not the best practice to call a file with a sentence, but it happens for other people. The solution was to use a Mac computer to copy the files form Dropbox to GoogleDrive. (It could have been done also with some utilities for Windows that go around the bug).

Test special characters

Not present in the Known Issues of GoogleDrive is the fact that GoogleDrive has problems with filenames having parenthesis which at my association they use. I’m still trying to go around this problem, removing parenthesis from several folders and filenames.

Do the first synchronization in small batches

We believe these products are robust. So we just copy the 10GB of Dropbox into GoogleDrive. GoogleDrive just can’t stand to sync so many files at the same time. It is part of the known issues. Then it is also very slow. It took 2 days to upload the 10GB… And time to time it would stop, without errors and you have to restart the client. Just unprofessional quality. “We are aware of the problem” answers Google since May 2012.

Do one computer at a time

If you are going to use GoogleDrive in a team with a single account, then do setup one account at a time. Otherwise it will start entering in conflict because of the problems above. At the end on my computer (which was not the one who copy from Dropbox, but it was connected all the time) I had several sub-folders and filenames with (1) at the end, which is the way GoogleDrive solves conflicts. At same point I decided to disconnect my account and download the 10GB again. It was better.

Hopefully these advices help you if you want to use GoogleDrive. But I’m looking forward to have with a stable version….

Miquel et Migu-el

Aujourd’hui une collègue de travail écrit mon nom avec Q: “Miquel”. Je le demande pourquoi elle a fait cette erreur et elle ne le sait pas. Elle sait comment s’écrit mon nom mais automatiquement, dans le clavier, elle utilise le Q au lieu de G. Ce n’est pas la première ni la deuxième personne, ne sera pas la dernière.

Une autre variation sont les Français que disent “Migu-el”, en prononçant bien fort le U. Je les demande pourquoi. Ils réfléchissent bien.  Je les rappel la règle du Français (comme en Portugais ou Espagnol) où la syllabe GUE et GE font des sons différents. La réponse est toujours: “Je ne sais pas pourquoi je le dis Migu-el”.

Sync storage with FTP

One of my first tasks as IT responsible of Pro-Vélo Genève is to replace the usage of Dropbox and the 300USD paid yearly for the service.

Dropbox is a great service, but just too expensive for an association where most of the people are volunteers and the budget is limited.

The problem is:

  • 15 GB to share among 5 people’s computer
  • 3 of them use Dropbox also for other personal projects (but less than 2gb of personal data)
  • Mix of operating systems ranging from XP to 7 and OSX 10.6 to 10.8.
  • Some users are not computer savvy

Other elements to know:

  • Hosted website with PHP 5.2
  • Backup area accessible by FTP without PHP

FTPBox (2.2.3)

My first thought was to use this backup area and have some software that make use of it. I found FTPBox which uses FTP and your own host to keep the files in the cloud and synchronize them.  
After installing it seemed quite nice, until the first error:
And these kind of errors kept appearing with the usage. I could not use this with people that are not at ease with computer. Moreover there is no OSX client. (server 4.5 / client 1.1.3)

I went then to I’ve installed on my website and after a few errors it worked. Then I installed the latest client, but again I was receiving errors:

When using the old client it worked better. However there were still two problems. The icon in the taskbar does not show the activity. It is always like this: 
And and website of the association, where I want to install it, runs PHP 5.2 while ownCloud requires PHP 5.3. I could request to change but that would mean that I need to make sure that all the rest of the CMS system continues to work.

GoodSync (

Still I found GoodSync which is more a backup than a synchronization program. It allows to synchronize FTP site with a local directory but lacks a folder watcher that triggers the synchronization as soon as one of the parties changes a file. It does a periodic check which re-reads the whole directory and can be slow if you have a lot of files. Also if you go to the folder that is being synchronized you never know at which state the files are. It is not geared to teams and it did not take my trust it would work well with open files, multiple saves, etc. Plus it costs 30USD per computer you want to install it, which is a quite high investment. 
I went back to check the Dropbox and alternatives.

Dropbox (1.4.9)

The whole is very well made. The only incovenient is that when you work in teams and go further than the 2GB free, every member of the team which uses his personal account (because of other usage of Dropbox), he is also obliged to buy the 100USD supplement for the files that are shared with him (and so are synchronized to his computer). At some point it is fair, but it is expensive!

Microsoft SkyDrive

This is the best solution of them: cheap (10USD/year for 27GB), easy to install and use. However it requires Windows Vista and OSX 10.7… Old computers you can forget. It is a pity, as the software is very good, even for Mac!


This new player does not offer yet paid accounts, so you cannot go further than the 5GB you can get for free.


Seems you cannot share files in a personal account and 100€/year is quite expensive for 25GB.

SugarSync (1.99.xxxxx)

It seems to have it all: compatibility, sharing, relatively interface (while I like a lot the possibility to choose any folder to share, I’m affraid it is not the most straight forward idea for ex-dropbox users. Costs 50USD/year for 30GB

GoogleDrive (

As the option above, it also provides everything you need and the interface is more similar to Dropbox, which makes it easier to use. The only point against it is that I’m afraid someone uses already GoogleDrive and did not tell me and then it will be difficult to share the account (for free). Google Drive costs 30USD/year for 25GB.

Dropbox portable (1.4.5)

Last but not the least, there is a Dropbox portable, which allows to use multiple Dropbox accounts in the same computer. This solution would decrease the price paid by the association to only one user, or 100USD/year for 100GB. Still more expensive than other solutions above.


While I’m still not 100% decided (I really liked SkyDrive), I think I will have for the moment to decide between SugarSync and GoogleDrive, hoping that during 2013 the FTPBox or ownCloud solutions will be in better shape and easy to install and use by non-technical people on Mac and Windows.
* Dropbox portable allows to skip the requirement that other users have to pay if they also use the software for personal usage.