Brownout Gone Black


Yep. You guessed it, no power.

So, while we waited for the lights to come back on, I got out my iBook and my V800 and went online to check out iFolder, which is due to have a Mac OS X release soon.

One of the reasons it intrigues me is that it smacks of P2P file-sharing on a LAN, using WebDAV or some sort of HTTP-based protocol to replicate files and subfolders across several machines.

It's not a new idea (Microsoft had a "Briefcase" replication applet quite a few years back, and Groove does workgroup folder sharing beautifully, and across pretty much any sort of firewall), but its decentralized user management and cross-platform capabilities make it seem a lot more interesting.

After reading the user manual (PDF), here's what I think will go wrong with it:

  • It will probably have trouble working with NAT and personal firewalls.
  • It will replicate files across machines, which means it will have to do some sort of conflict resolution. No matter how good that is, I will be interested in seeing it work (and, indeed, there is a "Resolve" button on screenshots).
  • It will be inefficient with large files (despite the demos showing movies).
  • It will probably be tricky to use by laptop users (the usual stuff - you leave the LAN, edit a file, and someone else does it too - creating a conflict).
  • It will not help you work with people on separate networks/companies/whatever. Most importantly of all, it will most likely not help you work remotely (at least by itself).

Mind you, the approach does have a few neat aspects:

  • Replicating the data means implicit backup.
  • Having an integrated user manager means you don't have to deal with corporate red tape to create file shares.
  • It uses RSA keys inside "invitations" to bind peers together.
  • It's free.

Considering it's sponsored by Novell, the former king of office LANs before Lan Manager and Windows for Workgroups started paving the way for NT, this is an interesting approach - no centralized (and ultimately unmanageable) LDAP directories, no platform incompatibilities (one hopes), no more Windows/SMB tussles.

Of course Novell will have an iFolder Enterprise Server to add features (such as support for off-site users), but one has to wonder whether people really want yet another file sharing mechanism, no matter how neat and cross-platform it is.

After all, it's yet another thing for users to learn (although, admittedly, file sharing was always a pain in Linux, and those users will love it).

If, like Groove's file sharing, it worked no matter where I was on the planet, I would be all over it.

For now, I'll just wait and hope the Mac client is as seamlessly integrated with the Finder as my iDisk.