Around four months ago, I moved from Sugarsync to Spideroak. I’d been using Sugarsync for over a year, and had been a keen advocate for the platform – indeed, I’d referred about 30 people to the service, and it had been my go-to cloud storage as that sector emerged, a few years ago.
However, although I loved the service and the app, one thing that concerned me was the security wasn’t up to my requirements – the fact that data might be encrypted using AWS standard techniques, but would still be accessible to any staff, any US federal agency that served a warrant (or didn’t) to the company, anyone who hacked my password (no 2FA), and anyone who found a vulnerability.
I wanted to store client data in the cloud, and feel some level of confidence that no-one else would be able to read or hack it, and if they did, then I had done everything I could have possibly done to protect it
So – I moved to Spideroak. Spideroak offer a similar service, but only you hold the keys to your data; no-one else can decrypt it. They also offered some convenient secure-sharing options that Sugarsync don’t, like password-protected ‘sharerooms’ where you can share a folder with a third party, and temporary download links you can send to share a file, but which expire after a few days. As a bonus, they offered massively more storage than Sugarsync, competing with Dropbox at the new standard of 1TB for $10/month.
The trouble with Spideroak is… everything else. The service is way clunkier for a number of reasons:
- No mobile upload. With sugarsync, when reading documents or attachments in my email, I could file them away on my disk, there and then, by sending them to sugarsync and choosing the folder. Done! Finished! With Spideroak, the mobile client has no ability to upload! I’m back to flagging and emailing files to myself, to store away later when I’m back at my PC
- Lack of mobile search. You can’t search for a file in the mobile client, unlike Sugarsync filename search, or full google-style search in Dropbox. While this is to be expected – you can’t index server-side when data is encrypted – there are acceptable partial solutions; such as storing a filename index on the mobile device, just to quickly jump to a file by typing its name.
- Lack of mobile caching. If you access a file from your mobile device – and it is quite slow at doing this, sometimes unusably so – you’d expect it to cache recent files so that if you open then a second time, they’re just there, right? Well – no. You have to download the file all over again, each time. The workaround is to ‘favourite’ the file first, so it’s downloaded and cached locally.
- No collaboration. You can’t sync a folder with a colleague/friend. This is a fundamental capability of Dropbox, Sugarsync, Box, and almost every other service, but Spideroak’s security model seems to prevent this. I have a folder of all household documents shared with my wife’s laptop, and in the end, I simply logged her desktop sync client into my account.
Yes, there are sharerooms, but they work with you as the master folder owner and others signing in on the web client; there’s no desktop sync
- Slow, unpredictable sync. Spideroak uploads in groups of files that total a certain chunk size, which is interesting; they do explain this on their blog. What is more interesting, are the long periods where I see zero upload bandwidth on my bandwidth monitor, while the Spideroak client seems stuck at nn% of the upload. Why? Why isn’t it uploading?
- Inability to prioritise/cancel uploads. Sit and wait is your only option
- Unable to handle PST files. Outlook PST files are a pain, since they appear to break the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service model that most backup/cloud storage apps use. Even Crashplan has issues with this. They all backup the whole file each time, even though not a single email has been added to the PST.
With Spideroak, it means every time it checks for new files, it queues my five PST files totalling 10GB, and starts to upload them all over again from scratch! I get the impression other services do manage to do a diff and upload only the changed blocks – Crashplan ‘uploads’ (or block diff/syncs) in a few minutes, and Sugarsync never complained – but Spideroak tries to upload the entire 10GB each time. I have to remove those from the backup list
- Slow to generate sharing links, unusable for new files. Spideroak has plenty of options to right-click a file and generate a 72-hour unique link to a file. But it’ll take 30-60 seconds to do it… you wait patiently for 20 seconds while the client struggles open (I have a mobile i7 laptop with 16GB RAM), then it tries to create the link, and then…. usually, nothing. Nothing, because for all the reasons above, I have a 30GB upload backlog, and the file I want to share probably isn’t synced. Particularly for new files you’ve just created, they’re added to the upload queue with no prioritisation possible (and will be grouped with other files and slowly uploaded in a batch), so it’s entirely useless for quickly uploading new files. I always end up using Dropbox.
- Mystery downloads. I use Spideroak to sync my main content-creation laptop to a rarely-used convertible laptop and occasional access from my iPad. Nothing is created on these. So why do I see my bandwidth monitoring showing a download at 15Mbps, which TCPView identifies as going to the Spideroak service. What is it downloading? I guess it could be a program update, but I’ve not noticed any updates in the app, and it happens too often for my liking.
In comparison to Sugarsync, Spideroak feels generally more clunky all over – the app, the desktop client, the web service. You can expect much of this given the additional effort of encryption and key management across all this, but there are also many unexpected/uncontrollable behaviours that cause concern.
Sugarsync recently submitted a poll for new features, and client encryption was one of them. I suspect that it won’t make it – although privacy is gaining pace worldwide – and they will be faced with many of the performance/accessibility trade-offs that client encryption present. But if they do implement this, and get it right, I would happily jump back to their service, even for the much smaller storage allowances.
After our initial rush of activity when we first discovered PictureLife – uploading tens of GBs of photos, testing the editing, the export, the sharing, the family streams, posting somewhere around twenty support threads with a mix of praise and feature requests…. my enthusiasm waned a bit. We just left it ticking away in the background, occasionally checking to see new photos that the other had taken, and it kept working away pretty reliably.
So, when I saw the PictureLife app update on both Android and iOS, I eagerly updated all my devices to the v3 app. I loved the idea of Places being available on both platforms; I marveled at the drag-the-thumbnail action screen. All very, very cool.
And then I tried to batch-select a group of photos…. it used to be double-tap for a range, didn’t it? Or tap-hold.. .no, that’s the action panel now…. where is it?
And where have family streams gone? There used to be a share icon with a radio button we could tap….
And then, today, I discovered that, with the brand new app, they’ve not implemented these features yet.
What? You can’t bulk edit photos in a photo-management app? And you can’t share photos in a cloud-based sharing app. WHAT?!?
Yep… unfortunately, it’s true. It’s evident enough that “Where are my features?” is the first item on the support page – which has also been taken down and moved to a new platform (Zendesk). That’s probably just as well, because the forum would be full of outraged users.
WTF, PictureLife? Couldn’t you have given us the common courtesy in the upgrade notes to warn us not to upgrade the app if we were somewhat attached to the most important features of it? Did you really think we wouldn’t miss it? What exactly are we supposed to use now? (Yeah, I know, the web app. Woo.)
So… all I can do is sit and wait, and let the unmanaged and unshared photos build up.
So – just a quick note about PictureLife.
Having had a continuous thread in this blog following my search for the perfect picture management tool, I turned this weekend to PictureLife
Picturelife seems to have some things that the other tools don’t, such as:
- Providing an easy means to make sure we offload the photos from our phones/cameras in the first place (iPhone/Android clients)
- Providing some automatic tagging, organising, etc
- NOT sharing by default, and allowing you to download your photos WITH ALL THE METADATA PRESERVED IN A STANDARD FORMAT
- Allowing us to consume/share the photos easily when we want – iPad/iPhone/Android/Web clients.
The last is the most important… it’s not trying every route to either force you to share photos, or to lock you in! Of course, they want to, the same as every other company, but at present, they’re giving very good options to take your data with you. And this is key to actually trusting such a service.
So – we’re dipping our toes: all photos from 2014 are now in Picturelife, and we’ll default to uploading and organising the photos in Picturelife as well.
My first impressions is that it has the fundamentals right, but there are a lot of bugs and issues that I’m discovering. For example, I’m watching as photos I uploaded a few hours ago are appearing in the browser before my eyes.
The strongest competition with PictureLife is Picasa/Google+. They also retain metadata, provide flexible editing/organisation, and granular sharing, and export with metadata inline. They’re far cheaper – even free and unlimited for storing lower-res photos. The problem is… it’s Google! I just don’t trust Google with my most personal data.
So… I could actually pay big bucks for PictureLife – possibly $200 a year if I choose to upload ALL our photos and movies, ever.
But then… you spend much of your waking time taking this endless stream of photos, interrupting your enjoyment of the occasion itself… and then never, ever look at them. So what’s the point? What value to actually enjoy those photos? To be able to share them with friends and colleagues when out, instantly, easily. Is $200 that much?
Hi – I’ve found the same. When OneNote tries to cache the BoxCryptor files, it corrupts the entire cache (not just the Boxcryptor notebook, but ALL my notebooks – Boxcryptor, Skydrive direct, Local, etc).
OneNote is a fantastic tool, and works great in many shared scenarios – including via an occasionally-attached network share via VPN – so evidently it’s getting confusion and pain by the local vs network virtual drive presented by Boxcryptor.
I have used OneNote successfully with a Truecrypt partition on OneNote (although not fully tested how it works when shared ,with the TC files being infrequently synced by Dropbox because they’re usually open and Dropbox needs them to be detached first).
I’m going to go back to that while Boxcryptor try to find a fix, but I suspect they might not because it sounds the issue is with OneNote not liking like the new version, and the new version is probably seen as an improvement in general.
Around ten years ago, I got my first scanner. I think it was an HP Officejet V40. I remember it fondly, because it had a straight-through sheetfed scanner, which would happy feed through almost any office document – including card, and even stapled sheets – unlike my current Canon MX870, and most other modern All-In-Ones. From memory, it cost me thirty pounds second-hand.
The objective of this, was that I was going paperless… I’d keep statements and receipts for one year only, and everything older, I would scan and store on disk. [These days, I keep almost nothing on paper; everything goes from in-tray to scanner to disk (several of them!) ]. But with that came a challenge – how would I find the documents I was looking for, when the time came?
After various tests, enter Deductus. It appeared to be a hobbyist project by a guy who wrote various other disparate coding projects. It differentiated itself, because you could index offline disks – network shares, DVDs and CDs – and keep just the index online. It would even ask you to insert the disk so you could view the document that it found for you.
So… in those ten years, a lot of search software has come and gone, particularly with the Desktop Search Boom, where every internet search company bought a desktop search startup (I used Yahoo’s free labelled version of X1, then X1 Pro itself). All those fizzled or diverged, then came the boom of Web 2.0 and cloud storage, and now…. Well, where are we now?
Well, Lifehacker recommend… not much: Launchy, Everything, or Windows Search (MS finally getting reasonable Outlook and File System indexed search also sounded a death knell to other Desktop Search providers). This page also recommends Copernic (the current fave), and others like Agent Ransack and DocFetcher. Locate32 appears to be a big fave, and closest to what Deductus is.
But Deductus seems to still be the best!
This is the Deductus Index status for my ‘Lifestore’.
It stores all files I’ve ever collected – back past Doom on HD Floppy, and including TIF survey maps of Italy, VMs from various projects, over 15,000 photos and videos, and PDFs, PDFs, PDFs, of every piece of paper I’ve received in the last 10 years. This is the largest of three discs I have indexed – 414,000 files totalling 465GB, of which 170,000 have their contents indexed (ie. Are a supported filetype that has been ). That still includes PDF, but sadly not Office 2010+, or RAR5/7ZIP archives (a reason I don’t use them).
OK – 450GB of data. I’m looking for the receipt for my iPhone 4S – is it still in warranty?
OK – found it. In TWO SECONDS, I see I have a receipt from 2011. So, no, it’s over 2 years old.
How about the last thing I have with “iPhone” anywhere in the document?
OK – I bought a Lifeproof case start of last year. Damn, it’s also out of warranty (the microphone seal has detached from the case).
That also took TWO SECONDS. That’s to find an instance of the word “iPhone” inside an OCR’d PDF of a receipt, across half a terabyte of data that’s stored on an external drive not even plugged in, in a program written by a young guy probably still in college, 5 years before anyone had even heard of “big data”.
True – it took 6 hours to index all that data. But I just update it when I batch-update the contents of the disk, every six months of so.
Oh – and how about system requirements? Do I need to install Hadoop?
Nope. 3MB of installation space, and at least 32MB of RAM (ie. Installed total RAM) on a Pentium II CPU.
And there’s more
Finally – as if this isn’t enough, the author wrote a web app that could use the index, so users don’t even need to install the 3MB application.
So… where did I put that copy of DOOM?
OK, there’s the directory. Took 0.228s to return that 19-year-old result out of the 0.5TB, running on a single-core VM on my microserver….
….and it’s in a zipfile
So, now I’ve had my 2013 model XPS13 for 4 months, what do I think of it?
Well – there are four big glitches:
The name is misleading – this does SSH, but also RDP and VNC as well. In fact, just the RDP capability (Remote MS Windows Control) is far more powerful than a more expensive and popular RDP-only app I used to use.
I use this one app for all my Windows and Unix servers – from my home desktop to my media centre, RPi, and Amazon instances. It’s fantastic and excellent value.