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BitTorrent Opens Up Its Sync Alpha To the Public For Windows, Mac, and Linux

Soulskill posted 1 year,1 day | from the solutions-in-search-of-problems dept.

Cloud 49

An anonymous reader writes "BitTorrent on Tuesday announced it has released its file synchronization tool Sync into open alpha. You can download the latest version now for Windows, Mac, and Linux over at labs.bittorrent.com. The company first announced its Sync software back in January, explaining at the time that it uses peer-to-peer technology to synchronize personal files across multiple computers and devices."

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49 comments

Use encryption (-1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529375)

But at least, unlike Google and other services, you absolutely know you have no right to expect any kind of security and privacy.
I wonder how they address this issue; anybody here looked into it?

Re:Use encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43529457)

I've taken a few moments from my busy life to look into it, and arrived at an answer. Encryption.

Advantages? (2)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529399)

What advantage does this hold over existing "peer to peer" solutions like rsync or Unison? Is it just speed? I imagine that each additional update will speed up until downstream bandwidth is exhausted. If you have symmetric up/down, then there would be no speed advantage.

Re:Advantages? (4, Insightful)

sirber (891722) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529517)

look at it as a decentralized dropbox. rsync is a manual solution and doesn't work/easy well on windows and requires manual router configuration.

Re:Advantages? (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,20 hours | (#43532035)

And tends to suck when you have changes happening on both end, and when you want simple conflict resolution, and when you have more than two devices, or when both sides are moving targets...

Rsync is about as far from a "set it and forget it" syncing solution as you can possibly get, the list of caveats and cautions is about as long as the feature list.

Re:Advantages? (1)

timbo234 (833667) | 1 year,7 hours | (#43536485)

Exactly, but Unison doesn't have those problems - it handles where changes have happened on both ends and flags conflicts. I can use my desktop and laptop as much as I want without having to remember which files I modified on which and then simply run Unison to sync my home directory between the two devices.

What does this bittorrent one have as advantages over that?

Re:Advantages? (2)

l3iggs (1108141) | 1 year,5 hours | (#43537575)

Advantages over Unison:
~This is real time syncing initiated automatically on a file change. Unison syncs when you ask it to.
~Gracefully handles more than 2 devices. Unison was designed to keep files on 2 devices in sync. This is designed to keep files on N devices in sync. This also means you have N copies of your files for potentially better redundancy.
~Speed. Here a file you're missing may be transferred from multiple hosts. In the case where you have just 2 nodes in your network it reduces to Unison speed.
~Easier setup. With Unison you have to manage SSH keys for passwordless login & router port forwards. This works with no setup at all across the internet, through NATs and even to a machine behind a corporate firewall.
Disadvantages over Unison:
~Doesn't have the robust conflict resolution features.
~Unison is open source. We have no idea what unwanted things the bittorrent binary could be doing.

Re:Advantages? (1)

timbo234 (833667) | 1 year,5 hours | (#43537781)

That's the kind of answer that should be '+5 informative'. I'll keep using Unison as I only have 2 devices I need to sync between at the moment, but consider this for the future if I get an Ubuntu Tablet or something like that.

Re:Advantages? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529583)

For the non-techies, I assume that coming, out of the box, with the various tricks that bittorrent clients use to Just Work behind nasty little plastic NAT boxes would be the major advantage. Nothing intrinsic to bittorrent as a protocol; but certainly a side effect of bittorrent's history.

It might also be useful if your sharing scenario involves enough people that the efficiencies of bittorrent come into play. If it's just keeping Host A and Host B synchronized, you aren't going to do much better than break even, at best, with rsync. If your plan involves all two dozen members of your club, or your entire extended family and a tedious-but-HD vacation video, bittorrent starts to look better; but with the advantage that this 'key/encryption' stuff allows you to have a single host serving different folders with different access controls, unlike conventional trackers that are usually 'public' or 'private', with granular control, if any, mostly hacked on.

Aside from the ease of use, though, the amount of benefit you'd see over rsync seems likely to be directly related to how wide your distribution is.

Awesome enterprise tool (1)

rsborg (111459) | 1 year,21 hours | (#43531717)

It might also be useful if your sharing scenario involves enough people that the efficiencies of bittorrent come into play.

I imagine that the next step for BitTorrent is to make a corporate play.

Re:Awesome enterprise tool (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,21 hours | (#43531901)

It would be interesting to see how that would work for them: dropbox is a total raging clusterfuck for anything that you actually need to keep secure(I once caught a user storing fucking children's medical records on a personal dropbox account. That was not a fun chat for anybody involved...); but it's hard to deny that the consumer-derived 'cloud sharing' stuff frequently beats the IT department on usability and convenience.

If I were BitTorrent, inc. a corporate play would certainly seem sensible(not too much additional development cost on top of what they already have now, reasonable argument about why they are better than dropbox and clones(more secure, plus bittorrent clients are capable of intelligently transferring from WAN, LAN, or both, so most of the chatter would stay internal)); but I'd be a trifle nervous in the mid term about what Microsoft might do.

They've been surprisingly lousy at actually exposing it in a user-friendly and well known way(see also, Volume Shadow Copy vs. Time Machine, the former being older and arguably technologically superior, the latter being kind of a janky hack; but actually useful for the relatively tech-ignorant); but Microsoft has BITS and BranchCache [microsoft.com] already written and probably liberally supplied with group policy hooks and whatnot.

Any actual competition, in the near term, would probably come from the MS consumer line, with 'Skydrive', because Microsoft's track record on turning potentially-interesting-but-enterprisey technologies into consumer goods isn't so hot, much less doing so fast; but they've actually done some work on a very similar class of problems, and do have the technology available, just not terribly visible.

Re:Awesome enterprise tool (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | 1 year,11 hours | (#43534729)

but it's hard to deny that the consumer-derived 'cloud sharing' stuff frequently beats the IT department on usability and convenience.

Quattro Pro and Wordstar on MSDOS 6.0 beats almost anything the IT department offers in terms of usability and convenience.

Re:Awesome enterprise tool (1)

tehcyder (746570) | 1 year,10 hours | (#43534847)

dropbox is a total raging clusterfuck for anything that you actually need to keep secure(I once caught a user storing fucking children's medical records on a personal dropbox account.

You can't really create a product that lets you easily store and share information then moan when some people store and share information inappropriately.

If someone wants to put their name, address, phone numbers and credit card details on facebook with no privacy settings, how are you going to stop them?

Re:Awesome enterprise tool (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,9 hours | (#43535427)

I don't care what people do with their data on dropbox. My point was that, as a tool for environments that handle sensitive data dropbox is deeply unsuitable. I can definitely understand why people would want to use it, it sure is handy; but in a situation where you have an obligation to safeguard data pertaining to other people, you are no longer in "what people do with their data" territory, and dropbox is seriously flawed.

Re:Awesome enterprise tool (1)

rsborg (111459) | 1 year,3 hours | (#43538837)

Bittorrent Sync could be even more private than Dropbox - you can send out time-limited shares and restrict permissions, etc.

I think BTSync could completely take over the corporate space if it's well designed enough. I can already see exactly how this would supplant Sparkleshare, SFTP and/or Dropbox for working on large/sparse project teams with large relatively static datasets (e.g.: large report output files, XML interchange data, etc)

It's still not clear whether BTSync does binary diffs, and it definitely doesn't have versioning right now, so concurrently updated documents doesn't seem like a good use case. It's still unclear how sync status is made visible (Dropbox really shines here due to it's cloud intermediary). Perhaps some additional tool to integrate with BTSync?

Re:Advantages? (3, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529785)

If you have symmetric up/down, then there would be no speed advantage.

Well I suppose it still depends. Imagine you have 20 computers staying in sync, all through symmetric 10mbps connections, then you add another. Even if the additional computer only has a 10Mbps connection, meaning you may not get the download faster than simply downloading from one source, you could still see a benefit from distributing the load among the other 20 computers. So instead of saturating the upload pipe for one computer, you're a minor .5mbps upload on each.

Re:Advantages? (1)

fwarren (579763) | 1 year,8 hours | (#43535597)

With 2 computers involved no advantage over rsync or Unison as far as speed of transfer. If you have 3 or more computers this is a better option. This works just like any other torrent. If a file is on computer A, and computers B and C need it. As B gets part of it and C gets a different part of it, then B and C can help update each other in the case of A's pipe being saturated. If you are trying to sync A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H, then it will be MUCH faster and much less complex to maintain.

Once you add in features like read only folders, the ability to exclude any one particular file or folder from being accessed, and being able to issue a good for 24 hours only key, you have a LOT of advantages over rsync. If you want sync copies of files on computer A to computer B, then rsync is the right tool for the job. If you need to do more than that, then maybe bittorrent-sync is the right tool for the job.

bye bye Dropbox (1)

Sarin (112173) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529431)

Seems like a better alternative to my paid Dropbox subscription.

Re:bye bye Dropbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 hours | (#43534275)

And no FBI snooping around your files!

Re:bye bye Dropbox (1)

tehcyder (746570) | 1 year,10 hours | (#43534869)

And no FBI snooping around your files!

I'm sure that's a valuable feature for those twats stupid enough to store information about their criminal activities on the fucking internet.

It's like Dropbox, except (1)

AvgCsStudent (1646059) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529501)

I like having someone else to be responsible for my data. I tend to lose it.

Re:It's like Dropbox, except (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529839)

Yeah, I was hoping this would be some sort of mesh backup, where files are encrypted and spread redundantly throughout the network.

Still, it could be a useful collaboration tool, but not a replacement for Dropbox or Crashplan.

Re:It's like Dropbox, except (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43530129)

While I like the idea of letting someone else worry about the practicalities of storage, I don't like the idea that they can browse through my files. I prefer privacy, and I've got lots of storage space around. I just need it synchronized over the network. Unison is nice, but I'll look at alternatives. I don't use DropBox precisely because I don't want someone else responsible for my data and I don't need to pay extra for a service when I have enough storage on my various devices and can backup each of them to the other.

Not Free as in Freedom: DO NOT CARE SLASHDOT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43529545)

Dear Slashdot, Stop posting this shit. We do not care about assholes who try to close a bloody protocol. We do not care about lame proprietary software.

Stop it.

Re:Not Free as in Freedom: DO NOT CARE SLASHDOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 hours | (#43532119)

Sorry, but Slashdot is not the FSF. Some of us are fine with proprietary software.

Is this like Freenet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43529573)

Is this like Freenet with storage "out there" on anything, or is it only using p2p to sync between your own little cloud of devices?

Why would anybody touch it? (1, Troll)

denis-The-menace (471988) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529577)

Why would anybody touch it after this:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=bittorrent+MPAA+Team [google.ca]

Re:Why would anybody touch it? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,22 hours | (#43531211)

"Why would anybody touch it after this:"

Who the hell cares about that?

That only has to do with BitTorrent's (the company) OWN servers. And they weren't aggregating infringing links anyway.

The vast majority of BitTorrent traffic has absolutely nothing to do with BitTorrent, the company.

As far as I know, there is no way to track file syncing via BitTorrent, unless your ISP is monitoring your usage at the last mile. You might be able to pull off a man-in-the-middle, or spoof a node, IF you knew somebody was about to sync. But how many machines are you going to be syncing with, anyway? You should be able to spot a spoof pretty easily.

Re:Why would anybody touch it? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | 1 year,6 hours | (#43537383)

If it's not open source it could be monitoring what you have legit or not.

No network hacks required, just a patient app reporting back a-la-RealJukeBox randomly at 3am 6-9 months after product launch.

PS: Thanks for the Troll paint job.

Sounds like a cool idea. (5, Interesting)

stewsters (1406737) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529771)

So, where is the link to the github page where we can view the source?

Re:Sounds like a cool idea. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43530051)

Exactly. I try not to be a zealot for FOSS, but this just seems like the sort of software that I would want to make damn sure the public can see the source on. You don't get to just say "It's encrypted!" and have me believe everything was done correctly.

Re:Sounds like a cool idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43530283)

None that I can see. The answer wasn't "no", but the most they committed to was an API for developers when open source question was asked in the forums [bittorrent.com] .

I'll take a look, but OwnCloud or Unison is still looking better in terms of knowing what is being done internally with your files.

Interesting... (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | 1 year,1 day | (#43529995)

I'll tell you, this seems to me to be a very interesting development. I think the next step they should be looking at is to develop the ability to purposefully implement partial replicas at different sites, allowing for a kind of distributed filesystem.

For example, lets say I set up 30 servers around the world, each with this Bitorrent Sync system set up, each containing 20 TB of data. Now in order for Bittorrent to work, I don't think I need each of those servers to have a full copy of every file. Imagine I could say, "Make sure than any one block is automatically stored on at least 6 servers". Now I have 100 TB of redundant storage online accessible via the bittorrent protocol. Then I could have different individual clients set to only sync a certain subset of that storage.

Don't care... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#43530693)

Bittorrent is directly owned by the MPAA.

Installing anything tainted by the mpaa seems like a really bad idea.

Hide it behind a shell company seems to be working for most people tho. Install away. Just don't whine when that turns out to be unwise.

Unfortunately, not open source. Lets change that! (4, Insightful)

RanceJustice (2028040) | 1 year,23 hours | (#43530843)

After reading over threads such as http://forum.bittorrent.com/topic/8816-will-syncapp-be-open-source/ [bittorrent.com] on their website, I am disappointed to find that SyncApp (as well as Surf, and Live, other BTLabs projects) is not currently open source, and apparently the most they're shooting for at the moment is some sort of API in the future. While I was initially intrigued by Sync's feature set, especially the "shared secret" encryption variations (master key, one way sync, one time sync and more.), as well as that they could be integrated within BitTorrent's existing (and open source) protocols such as DHT, using a BitTorrent tracker, PEX, stream encryption etc, when I read that the implementation was not planning to be free and open source, that is a major blow to its long-term viability as part of next-generation file-sharing protocols.

Especially in a world of "Six Strikes", overzealous industry groups and corporate cronies, government censorship and more, it is absolutely imperative that the tools that those interested in privacy, activism, journalism etc...be free and open source. From being able to audit the code if you have the skills, to crafting decentralized and inter-operative networks across multiple platforms, operating systems and more etc... FOSS is necessary. I can nearly guarantee that if the original BitTorrent protocol had not been released free and open source (along with many of the most popular evolutions of said protocol, such as DHT/PEX/uTP, encryption, private trackers etc..) it would not have come to such prominence. I personally am no fan of the proprietary uTorrent client, but thankfully I can make use of Deluge, KTorrent, or Transmission and have access to the latest features on the BitTorrent network, able to interact with others so long as they were using open protocols. I'd love to see this extend to Sync, which I feel could be excellent not just for users syncing their data amongst multiple computing devices of their own, or sharing with friends, but creating another protective web when it comes to file-sharing, adding privacy protections - an intermediary step that doesn't have nearly the speed/hardware demands of say, operating BitTorrent exclusively through Tor.

Sync, Torque/btapp.js (One has to install the proprietary, headless Torque client (or uTorrent) which has very little documentation on its features/privacy etc... why not have them simply integrate with an open API that any BT client with sufficient support can be called to utilize - thus, using all the safety features like my blocklist, encryption preferences etc... in my client of choice?), Live, Surf (Which I hope will be open and customizable, available on Firefox ASAP,) SoShare - all of these BitTorrent Labs productions sadly seam to be proprietary in nature (though, I must give them kudos for offering Linux versions of Sync for instance). Much like the acquisition of the proprietary uTorrent and the "Plus" version of the client being sold, BitTorrent's latest ventures seem to be steering away from the free and open source paradigm that made the protocol such a great advance in filesharing.

When it comes to file sharing in today's legal and technical clime, proprietary and centralized just won't do. What Sync offers is novel and could create additional layers of security (consider an entire tracker using Sync technology where connecting to each torrent requires a unique "Shared secret", which is available exclusively on a totally different site, extrapolating another legal level of obfuscation, deny-ability, and privacy protection), the community cannot trust it offered as a proprietary service with a central point of failure (legally) and the inability to audit the code. Hopefully, this will change and that Sync and other elements will help to extend BitTorrent as the excellent, multifaceted, free and open tool for disseminating data... but for the time being, it is a curiosity that is in the hands of a company that seems to put profit and control above user privacy and technical freedom/openness

Rsync? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 hours | (#43531115)

Not to be a negative nancy because this actually seem quite interesting. However it does remind me a lot of rsync and i can't find any advantages that this program offers aside from ease of use.

Re:Rsync? (1)

Fri13 (963421) | 1 year,14 hours | (#43534089)

Exactly what I got in my mind.

So many things has been done with Unix programs decades ago but problem is that mainstream has not known about them who just want to get stuff below 5 second timeline and fall to all kind stupid marketing lies like "Cloud" and this kind so easily.

Today to run own server does not even require a much. A 20-50 dollar Android smartphone + 32-64GB MicroSD card and you get very capable low-power server.
I made one by buying a totally new Huawei U8160 (70 bucks, second hand were between 20-50 at that time) and then slapped a 32GB microSD card on it.
WWW, EMAIL, NFS and SSH. You get even a webcam for security if wanted. Of course wireless connection is available but when you have option to buy SIM to get even a 3G, older Android smartphones becomes awesome computer-swissknifes for many house things with low-power demand and even multiple hour battery backup.

And if using something like this https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.kowalczuk.rsync4android&hl=en [google.com] you get rsync to nicely sync important data as wanted.

Next thing what I propably do is to search how to get a MicroUSB Y-cable so I can power up the device and attach a USB HDD on it (required OTG support for device but...) so you could make a as big fileserver as wanted.

But can I... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 hours | (#43531207)

sync between a folder on my computer and a CIFS share that I have mounted on it?

BT/VPN/TOR Japan fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 hours | (#43531539)

And as my ISP block bittorrent, I'll have to route this through a VPN or TOR. No wait, I can't I live in Japan..

A huge benefit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 hours | (#43536901)

This would be a huge benefit in those small to medium size lan parties I often do. Plenty of times the host doesn't really have good internet access or doesn't want to have its cap reached.

A system like this would be much easier and faster than having to share a file (we most often play free games, but everybody still needs to get the game somehow) than getting it through the usual way of one person putting it in a shared folder and it then proceeding to take an hour to share since everybody has to get it from one folder. Its also much easier to set up than to use dc++.

I for one, welcome our new lan synching overlords.

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