Friday, March 12, 2010

Tech churn 2010: How do you share a family file?

Twenty years ago we knew how to share files on a Mac. You created users and groups. When you accessed a share you entered a username and password. You could save a shortcut to the desktop and MacOS would store the credentials.Things weren't that much harder with Windows 95 a few years later.

That was then. In the bright shiny world of 1990's tomorrow a share/permissions bug in the combination of 10.6 + 10.5 + wireless networking put 45,000 zero length files with numerically iterating names in our "parents only" shared folder.

It's not the first time I've run into architectural issues with OS X's post-obsolete permissions framework; although 10.6 is exceptionally bad things have been more or less downhill since 10.3.Back at the corporation we have Microsoft SharePoint - or whatever it's called now. Microsoft keeps rebranding it to hide the bad news. SharePoint makes OS X 2010 look relatively benign.

I don't know how well things work with home Windows 7 network shares. I suspect it's better than OS X, but I don't think the Windows home file share appliance market is doing well.

I'm getting that old King Canute and the unstoppable tide feeling. I'm using something that's completely broken, but the ether isn't filled with the screams of fellow geeks. The path I'm on has clearly been abandoned; the days of being able to share files with one's wife, but not the kids, on a home machine have passed.

Unfortunately, there's no clear alternative. We're in tech churn -- the turbulent white water between technology transitions. We could do all our home file sharing using Google Docs, but, frankly, gDrive sucks and backup is a pain. We could use a drive hanging off the Time Capsule perhaps, but I doubt that's much better and, ironically, you can't easily back up a drive hanging off a Time Capsule. We could use MobileMe, but ... sigh. I could buy a Windows machine to use as an SMB share, but that's a maintenance pain. Everything I read about OS X Server tells me not to go there.

Maybe Apple will deliver a home file share appliance this year with integrated backup. I'm not holding my breath though.The bottom line is that there's no good solution for home-based group file sharing in 2010 on OS X, and probably not any platform. It's a tech regression - we're stuck until something better emerges. That will probably take years.

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