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OS X - Operating System General OS operation information and support

File Sharing or Dropbox?


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Darren_76

 
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Hi
I've been stressing over the best way to share files between my iMac and MBP for a while now, occasionally using file sharing and other times using Dropbox. I'm a writer, using Scrivener, and would love to be able to work on the same project on either machine, without the impracticalities of dragging files between folders each time I make a change.

Dropbox is great, however the recent furore of their terms and conditions change has left me skeptical about cloud-based services, which is a shame as it syncs faultlessly with Scrivener and also provides ease of mind with a cloud back-up.

I'm also reluctant to enable file sharing and use the 'connect as' feature of sharing to access files stored on one mac from another because I'm not that confident by enabling these features I am completely safe.

I would be grateful of people's thoughts on this, specifically on security issues (seeing as iCloud isn't an option as it won't support Scrivener files).

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vansmith

 
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I'm a big Dropbox user here but I don't put much up there that would be of any concern. Sharing files between Macs should be fine for you if cloud based services are out of the picture. What is your concern about safety?

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Darren_76

 
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Hi Vansmith
My main concern is about how safe my local network is and the fact I have to turn the firewall off to allow sharing. I have used the 'connect as' feature to access my iMac files from the MBP but got nervous and turned it off.

I have BT Broadband and the network is protected by the wireless key only. I'm not sure how secure this is and my main worry is someone getting on to the network and accessing my computers if they are visible on the network. Am I being overly paranoid? Also, am I right in thinking that to connect as not only would someone need to be on the network, they'd also need to get through my computer's password?
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mrplow

 
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I think there's a little paranoia in there but some obvious and real concerns too.

There are many ways to share files between machines on the same network and several ways to make your network secure.

Considering the network security first. I don't know which BT router you have (i can give specific info if you let me know). But there are things you can change to bolster the security of your network.

1. If you don't need to use wireless disable it in the router options and connect by ethernet cable. Without gaining physical access to the router you can't have any unwanted guests.
2. If you want to retain wireless flexibility make sure you're using WPA2 wireless security and use an app or similar to generate a very secure password (long, letters, numbers, symbols etc). You can also enable MAC filtering which limits specific devices from using the router i.e. only allow the devices you own.

As for sharing:
If you're uncomforatble using dropbox et al you can create a shared folder on your Mac (or use the existing public folder) and save your work into there (you can still have your firewall on). The only drawback here is that to access the files the machine with the folder needs to be on when you access it from the other machine.
Another, secure, alternative is a USB pen drive with an encrypted disk image on. That way you have to enter a password to access the contents and you save all your work to that.

As an side you can create one of these encrypted disk images and save it to your dropbox, so even if someone gained access to dropbox the content would be encrypted.

Yet another alternative is to get a Network attached hard disk that both machines can access, you can password protect folders on a NSA too and this way you can physically secure the NAS drive when going on holiday etc but you can also access the files from one machine without the other being switched on.

These are but a few options you have. Happy to elaborate etc.

The balance with security and convenience/practicality is a difficult one. You can lock things down to the nth degree but it can become a complete pain to do any work! But obviously you want to keep your data secure. Where you draw that division line is something only you can decide

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In addition to mrplow's list of great suggestions, I have one more for you that's a bit more complicated by might assuage some of your concerns.

If you enable remote login on one of the machines, you can share files between the two using sftp. Essentially, it's FTP over SSH which will encrypt the data as it is sent between the machines. Now, that doesn't protect the data on the machines themselves but the transfer will be secured.

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Or... Just get a 16GB USB stick and bypass all the network stuff altogether.

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Darren_76

 
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Thanks for the replies. I don't think remote login is something I want to enable as there are only specific files I need to access on the move.

Dropbox would be perfect if it had client side encryption, however i don't know how that would effect synchronisation, especially with the scrivener files I predominantly use. I'm quite interested in the disk image and would welcome further instruction on how to set this up in my dropbox folder.

Incidentally, I have the bt broadband home hub 2.0 and would appreciate your help in enabling mac filtering
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren_76 View Post
I'm quite interested in the disk image and would welcome further instruction on how to set this up in my dropbox folder.
Ask and ye shall receive.

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mrplow

 
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Creating an Encrypted Disk Image
1. Open Disk Utility
2. Choose New - Blank Disk Image from the File menu.
3. Enter a name in the Save As: field. This name is used for the disk image (.dmg). Save the file in your Dropbox folder.
5. You don’t have to but I’d use the same volume name as the disk image name.
6. Set the size you need (not sure how big your files get).
7. Leave volume format as Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)
8. Choose an image format. You can use sparse disk image for a disk image that only uses as much space as it needs or for a fixed size use the read/write disk image.
9. From the Encryption: drop-down choose 256-bit AES
10. Click the Create button.
11. Enter and verify a good password in the dialog window that appears. This password will be saved in your keychain by default. Uncheck the option if you want to enter the password each time you mount the image. Don’t forget the password..... it is, for all intents and purposes, unrecoverable if you forget it.
12. Click OK.

So in everyday use, you mount the disk image and enter your disk image password.
Do the work you need to do in Scrivener, saving the disk image then unmount the image (hit the eject button next to it's name in Finder).
Dropbox will sync the file like any other.

RE: MAC Filtering:
After looking at the Home Hub 2.0 specifics it doesn't appear to support MAC filtering I'm afraid. BT seemed to deem it non-essential.
You can argue pros and cons for MAC filtering but I suspect BTs driver for removing it was to simplify support issues.
Having a strong WPA2 password however will give you more than adequate protection on your wireless network

External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post
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Darren_76

 
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Thanks for the instructions Mr Plow. I managed to set up the target disk in my dropbox folder. I hope this isn't too much of a stupid question: can the target disk only be mounted from the computer it was set up on, even if it resides in dropbox? I was hoping to access from two machines but if this is the case it's still a useful way to back up my work in the cloud.

In reference to the BT router, is the WPA2 password different to the serial key that comes printed on the back of the home hub?
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mrplow

 
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You can mount the disk image on any Mac so long as you know the password.

The serial key on your home hub will be the wireless password but (unless it says on the sticker) you will only know if it's using WEP, WPA or WPA2 by logging into the router and looking at the wireless settings

External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post
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Darren_76

 
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Thanks again Mr. Plow. I've tested out again and been able to mount it on both computers and it appears to synch just the same with scrivener. So, just to recap, everything I save in the disk image is stored encrypted on the dropbox servers. I know I'm probably being over paranoid but us writers have to believe what we're working on could be the next big thing, which is why matters like this are a distraction to the actual writing process.
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mrplow

 
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Dropbox will sync the disk image. The disk image and it's contents are encrypted. To Dropbox it just looks like one big file. It's completely unaware of the content.

External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post
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