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Ifolder Server Review 98

liquidat writes "I wanted to have a look at the new Open Source ifolder-server and additionally at ifolder in general. ifolder is mainly supported by Novell, and Novell advertises it's Suse Linux, so I downloaded a Suse-VMware image, installed the vmware player and gave it a try. After I installed the needed software it worked pretty well and gave me a quite good impression of what ifolder is about."
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Ifolder Server Review

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:10AM (#15113277)
    I haven't used iFolder (on Windows/Novell) since 2005 but that's because of horrible locking. We were using it to share a "log file" document for keeping track of what documents were mailed from our department across two campuses.

    I was the main user of this document and would add 50 to 60 entries at any one time. iFolder wouldn't let me know that someone else had the file open and if I would save it with the other person's version open, I risked losing my work (which happened twice before I scrapped the idea and moved to another solution which included using a shared e-mail folder in Groupwise).

    iFolder, at the time, was insecure, slow, and problematic. Hopefully with it going out to the community these issues will be resolved.
  • i am actually looking for file synchronisation solution for linux for some time now.
    i would prefer somethnig that can sync in both ways (thus rsync does not cut this time), something that requires no special server and additional software on file server (so it is able to work with plain smb/nfs shares) - thus ifolder and svn solutions fail.

    to increase possibility of results, i'd like to add that windows has built-in file synchronisation mechanism that is able to sync files to simple file share (from user in
    • by Woy ( 606550 )
      Try unison.
      • wow. from the description it really looks like it's exactly what i want. [] seems to be the offical homepage.
        too bad there are no screenshots of gtk interface ;) ...and it's even in suse packman repository. and it seems to work.
        thank you :)
        • crap.
          "Unison is no longer under active development as a research project. (Our research efforts in this area are now focused on a follow-on project called Harmonymore details are available on the Harmony home page.) At this point, there is no one whose job it is to maintain Unison, fix bugs, or answer questions.

          However, the original developers are all still using Unison daily. It will continue to be maintained and supported for the foreseeable future, and we will occasionally release new versions with bug f
          • I dunno if it's abandoned, but it doesn't matter. Unison is *mature* -- there just aren't any lurking bugs that will never be fixed, or "coming soon" features that you really need *now*.

            So don't worry about not having new versions available, or that new patches aren't forthcoming. I've been using my copy for over three years now with *one* update (and that was just because I installed a newly-downloaded version on a new machine and the new version was incompatible with the older copy).
            • i understand it's mature, but that doesn't mean it can not be improved ;)
              it seems that running unison with -auto -batch does what i want - it syncs the thing, then pops up a window showing the status and conflicts. nnice.

              wonder why it isn't widely known...

              anyway, i looked over bugs & todo lists - impressive ;)
              most is in a "not so important" cathegory, a lot is about windows (that i don't care about currently) - but some things would be really nice to have.

              hopefully this little publicity will atract some
              • It's written in Ocaml which is not a very popular language. It would be a nice project to work on if somebody wanted to learn Ocaml though, you don't see too many projects written in that language.
                • ahh. yes, compiling instruction contain something about getting ocaml compiler and gtk libraries... too bad, probable chances of finding anybody illing to maintain it are very small.
      • I can second that. I've been using Unison to sync. my entire source directory (1000s of files) between home and work. Over at least 3 years of doing this and I've never lost a file.

        Oh, yah, the best part...I've been doing this through a modem-to-modem connection running at something like 20kb (that's less than 1/2 regular dial-up speed) and I've never had to wait more than a few minutes to sync. up several 1000 files. (Unison only transfers files that have been changed, and only the *actual changed portions
        • are you using gui or commandline version ?
          is it possible to run commandline version to update definite changes, skip conflicts and pop up gui with conflicts only ?

          i would like to automate it so that complete beginners in linux would have no difficulties using it.
          • I'm using the GUI version only (through Windows on both end, but that shouldn't matter 'cause the GUI is TK and looks the same -- crappy -- on both OSs). I've never used the command version 'cause I like how the GUI works: it nicely and very efficently shows whether your copy or the remote copy will be changed and lets you easily override its on a file-by-file basis. (I almost never override anything...I just start the GUI up, take a quick peek at the suggested changes and hit the Go button.)

            Also, conflicts
          • your description, I think you really just want rsync. Check out, for example, this nice tutorial. []
    • rdiff is one of a number of programs (cvs could also work for you) rdiff only copies over the changes and keeps logs of the changes, so roll-backs are possible for data recovery.
      • hmm. how does that differ from rsync solution ? that only provides one-way synchronisation. anyway, i'll try some more unison that somebody else suggested - it really seems nice :)
        • The difference between rsync and rdiff is that rsync only keeps the most recent copy in each location (local and remote), overwriting old versions, while rdiff gives you space-efficient point-in-time snapshots. It can do what rsync does, but it can also give you incrementals.

          Read below for my solution that provides bidirectional syncing with rsync.
    • I wanted a similar thing a while back, I found that the easiest thing was to use a shell script:

      rsync -avz /foo/ remotesystem:/bar
      rsync -avz remotesystem:/bar/ /foo

      You just sync from local to remote, then remote to local. Rsync is smart enough not to send anything over the wire that hasn't changed, so if someone hasn't modified anything on the remote end, then the second command will not transfer anything.

      What you effectively get out of this though is a filesystem where you can't delete anything (if it's th
      • um. that's not both ways, actually.
        to be fair, i don't see the point from the second command, except that, as you mentioned, files deleted on one of sources will reappear.

        after the site is back up, check out what unison (and ifolder) provides - that is a real two-way sync which can handle deletions and multiple users making changes to their own copy of fils, then syncing it with a central repository. and always getting the latest merged version of data, except for conflicts (two users making changes to the
  • What is ifolder? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:16AM (#15113311)
    It would be nice if you gave a quick description of what exactly iFolder is. From reading the article posting, the first few paragraphs of your blog, and the link in the first paragraph of your blog, I know it's written in GTK# and that it's from Novell, but I still have no idea what the hell it is and now I don't care anymore.

    To the editors, please reject stories that don't describe what new products (or not commonly known products) are so that people can have some clue right away whether or not they want to bother reading the story.

    I don't know if I want to read this because I don't know what ifolder is and I obviously can't figure it out without reading a lot more of the article than I want.
    • by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:23AM (#15113359) Journal
      Some fine stating-of-the-obvious in that article:

      "If you are going to share quite a big amount of data over this server, the server itself should have enough storage since it keeps a copy of every file"

        Where else did you think it was going to keep a copy?

        I think its basically an MS Sharepoint-type document sharing solution, of which you will find umpteen other examples on &section=projects&Go.x=0&Go.y=0 []

      Several of them even claim to be 'Enterprise-class' or 'professional'. Now an article comparing all of these with 'iserver' and sharepoint would be worth frontpaging on slashdot..

    • Re:What is ifolder? (Score:5, Informative)

      by soccercoach62 ( 882181 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:31AM (#15113406)
      According to []: " iFolder is a simple and secure storage solution that can increase your productivity by enabling you to back up, access and manage your personal files-from anywhere, at any time. Once you have installed iFolder, you simply save your files locally-as you have always done-and iFolder automatically updates the files on a network server and delivers them to the other machines you use. Sponsored by Novell, the iFolder project is built on the Mono/.Net framework to integrate seamlessly into existing desktop environments. "
    • "It would be nice if you gave a quick description of what exactly iFolder is. From reading the article posting, the first few paragraphs of your blog, and the link in the first paragraph of your blog, I know it's written in GTK# and that it's from Novell, but I still have no idea what the hell it is and now I don't care anymore." Dude, that's a geeks site, never EVER admit you don't know what's the article about. Just nod and agree.. just nod and agree...
    • by pavon ( 30274 )
      and I still don't really know what ifolder is. From what I read, it is a folder that I can access using a special client or a web interface. There is tons of software that does something along this line, from basic FTP / Apache folder view, to NFS or Coda to all the various HTTP webdrop applications.

      A more usefull article would explain how it compares to other common software, not necisarily to declare a w1nnAr but to let me know what what situations it excels in, and if it would be usefull to me.
    • This is the problem with all of Novell's products. It is unclear what many of them do and how we are supposed to integrate them with other Novell or non-Novell offerings. Many offer overlapping functionality (I am used to reading things like, "you could use Console One. But we prefer you to use iManager. But for these 3 three things you can't use iManager, you need to use ConsoleOne. And for this one thing, use REMOTE Manager, not iManager.)

      I am open to alternatives to the Windows Server with Active Di
    • ok ive read the review (quickly) read the ifolder website and hit wikipedia. high points are; automated file synchrnization, cross platform, will be p2p soon (via gaim?).

      what would be nice is a comparison of this to BitTorrent (+RSS ?) rsynch etc etc. some clues as to how to implement this in a large as well as small org. my org is all windows/novell/suse so i figure i can ifolder..

      1. some desktop software as long as there arnt things like registry changes that need to go allong
      2. some data files that all
    • OK, not completely, but it's way behind where it could be, and a great deal of that is the kind of mentality that both publishes and publicizes articles like this one.

      First off, the article doesn't tell you what the heck ifolder is. 99% of those who could use knowledge about ifolder won't read the article because after 1 or 2 paragraphs, they still have no clue what it is. Most would still have to guess after reading the whole thing.

      But worse, while the article does point to the ifolder pages, the main pa
    • Here's the main idea from what I've seen of it.

      You have an iFolder server, you make it accessible over your corporate LAN, WLAN, and the internet. Now you install an iFolder client on your workstation, your laptop, and your home PC.

      What this enables you to do is to be working on a project at work, save the file, no worries about backing it up to FTP or emailing it to yourself or what not, when you get home, your home computer has the updated version of your project anyway. You go to work the next da
  • gave me a quite good impression of what ifolder is about."

    neither in the blurb, nor the article, do you actually state what ifolder is or isn't.
    • Sounds like this story was submitted in the true spirit of a Novell press release. Poor advertising/marketing for decades is one of the main reasons that Novell is teetering on the brink of obscurity much like its competitors back in the late 1980's, Banyan and LANtastic.
  • Don't we already have enough GUI based file tools? What does this 'truly' add? I didn't see true value described..please help me.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
    How is this different/better from running an FTP (or SCP or SFTP) server?
    • Re:FTP (Score:5, Informative)

      by baptiste ( 256004 ) <> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:54AM (#15113587) Homepage Journal
      FTP/SCP requires the server be accessible via a network unless you manually keep copies locally on your laptop for instance. iFolder syncs files between a server store and your local machine (or multiple machines) so you always have a copy. Microsoft Offline Files are a similar concept though I always found the way iFolder handled the sync to be much cleaner than they way MS did it.

      All syncing is done over normal SSL HTTP connections (at least in v2 it was)

      So iFolder ensures you'll always have your files available, even if you have no network connection (on a plane, etc) and when you get that connection back, makes sure everything is synced.

      Really cool use case? Executives with assistants. Executive is travelling - they have all their files locally and those files get 'backed up' to a server when they get connected. But if the assistant has updated a bunch of files as well, the executive will get those updates pushed to their laptop during the next background sync (say in a hotel)

      Think an automated version of rsync over ssh. iFolder uses a totally different architecture and has a lot of management and sharing features, but at its simplest use, syncing two folders between a PC and a server, it accomplishes what rsync over ssh would.

      • and what happens if person 1 copies the data to his laptop and boards the plane
        person 2 changes files on the server using his desktop that are synced back
        person 1 changes some files (or even worse.. those same files person 2 changed) while he is on the plane.
        and he gets back to work and tries to synchonize his data back to the server.

        what does ifolder do in such cases?
        • It raises a conflict and provides the user with a variety of options based on the files in question (who changed them last, when they were changed, etc) You choose how to handle it.

          Again - iFolder is not meant as a file sharing replacement where files are locked and only one user at a time can change a file. Just like in SVN or CVS, conflicts will arise that you have to deal with. But they are recognized and they give you a variety of ways to handle it (in the end choosing which file 'wins') and, of cours

        • I've only used v2 so far but I use it pretty extensively. It actually has a conflict bin so that if there is some type of conflict it wil prompt you for what to do. I haven't had one in a long time so I don't remember exactly how it behaves but it won't just overwrite everything. It additionally had basic versioning support so that you can specify on the server side how many versions of a file to keep. This comes in pretty handy when a user gets a virus that wipes out their data as you can roll back wha
      • Now, it seems to me that iFolder equivalents can be created by just combining existing standard tools. The dependency on mono is certainly no good sign and could be a security risk.
    • How is this different/better from running an FTP (or SCP or SFTP) server?

      You have to log into an FTP server and send/receive files. Basically, it has all sorts of security, access, and automation features you don't get with FTP because FTP is just a file transfer protocol.

  • I've looked at iFolder and sort of understand its use, my query is, how do I install it on FreeBSD, which is my server. I want to have all my documents on the server shared on my home network via iFolder to all clients, since we're moving more and more to laptops. How does this work, and what are the advantages of this over something like NFS?

    I need this to work with Linux, OS X and XP clients (my wife needs XP for online classes, thus that support option ;))

    • From your description of what you want, you may find WebDAV on Apache or Lighttpd to be a good solution. You can configure either easily on FreeBSD and both Windows and OS X can access them as native disks.
    • I need this to work with Linux, OS X and XP clients (my wife needs XP for online classes, thus that support option ;))

      I can't comment on BSD, but it works with OS X, Linux, and XP quite nicely. I think that's one of its strongest points is cross platform file access and collaboration.
  • While I appreciate the reviewer's piece, I wonder what it would take to have a review done entirely in flash. These movies would require no software install on most PCs and would be very very effective in passing the message across. The whole business of posting pure HTML with graphics for reviews is becoming very ancient in my opinion.

    One draw back though, would be for those still using dialup. They would cry foul! Heck, such a movie could be uploaded to Google Video for free. With this route, the problem

  • by baptiste ( 256004 ) <> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:49AM (#15113542) Homepage Journal
    We used iFolder 2 in a Novell cluster and it was a really nice product. Our laptop users loved it. None of the hassles of Windows offline folders (which seems to try to use a sledgehammer to nail in a tack) iFolder simply sits in the background and watches your iFolder for changes/new files and seamlessly syncs them with the iFolder on the server. You could use an SSL browser w/Java to view your iFolder from other PCs, etc. The one thing that took a while to get yoru head around was that the file store on the server was encrypted, making backup interesting. But you could link the user with the directory name (which was a hash of some kind) so restores of an iFolder were possible, but restores of a single file were not. The benefit was the files were 'pre' encrypted so you didn't have to encrypt the files on teh fly. But the obvious downside was how to get granular backups. Not sure how v3 is handling that.

    v3 of iFolder definitely takes it to the next level with the ability to share iFolders with others and the ability to have multiple iFolders. I've got the rpms on hand and am setting up a Virtual Server to give it a whirl here myself.

    Remember - v3 of the server JUST got released as open source. They've been banging on it VERY hard so I don't expect it to be flawless. But its a very exciting product.

    As for the windows locking issues - unless that's something the commentor saw in v3 - we had a lot of iFolder users and never saw locking problems, even from users with laptops and desktops who had iFolder active at the same time. That's one of the appeals for computer geeks with more than one computer - true sync of files between all platforms and the server. If you can afford the space usage, its nice to know that even if the network is down, each unit will have that file you need.

    I hope iFolder draws a following - its a sweet product.

    • We used iFolder 2 in a Novell cluster and it was a really nice product. Our laptop users loved it. None of the hassles of Windows offline folders (which seems to try to use a sledgehammer to nail in a tack) iFolder simply sits in the background and watches your iFolder for changes/new files and seamlessly syncs them with the iFolder on the server.

      If a file becomes dirty [i.e. if it's altered], then, traditionally, Windows copied THE ENTIRE FILE to the server.

      So if you were goofing around with a 1MB PDF

  • What iFolder is.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Basically, what iFolder allows you to do is keep synchronized copies of data in multiple places. For instance, if I have a folder on my desktop, and a file in the folder named Bob.txt, Bob.txt will be stored not only on my local machine, but also updated to the iFolder server, as well as any other machine I have running the iFolder client with my Login.

    So, the result is that I can work on a file when at work, and know that when I get home the synchronized copy will be waiting for me there. If I don't have
  • Why not tell us?

    Criminy. I'm sick of having to read the comments in every single story because the story summary doesn't give you any useful information.
  • What exactly am I comparing myself to? I'm one of the oldest servers in this restaurant, but that's just because I haven't finished my dissertaion yet. If older than who? And what am I supposed to review?
  • iFolder sounded like a perfect product for me and my business. It goal: to transparently integrate a network file system into desktop experience. Where you can store, backup, share, access file from any location that is networked is awesome. The transfer are encrypted and there is a full featured easy to use web admin portion. It would be awesome for simple collaborative file exchange activities,

    However, do not even try to install this product on fedora core (It might be easier on fedora core 5 becaus
    • Things have changed since you initially tried this which I suspect is the whole point of the Slashdot article. In the past, the only way to get the Enterprise server was to buy OES. Now, the iFolder team has open-sourced the server which means they have some motivation to make packages for whatever your favorite distro is. They have also created fedora core 4/5 packages in a yum repository with a corresponding howto. I got it working on FC4 in about 10 minutes.

      Check it out []

    • It it clear they have not looked beyond x86 right now. You can find binary RPMs for many i386/i586 platforms at: [] Just click that latest build, then 'linux' then your OS. They include log4net, libflaim, and iFolder rpms.

      I'm trying to get it built for x86_64 and have run into a few snag which I've outlined here []. Anyone with more x86_64 build smarts than I, by all means let me know.

      So yes, the source RPMs are not perfect as I have found, but they are buildable

  • I took a look at iFolder some time ago, mainly through my interest in mono. Anyone out there who has used iFolder and FolderShare [] care to post a quick comparison?

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.