Cloudless Sync with BitTorrent Sync Part 1: Linux

The web is full of cloud services that allow you to keep files synced between multiple computers. However, there are limitations of file size and space with many of these services. BitTorrent Sync allows you to sync files between computers without reliance on a cloud service. BitTorrent Sync has no limits on file size, and the available space is the free space on your hard drive. The service provides encrypted transfer of files with a 24 bit Secret. BitTorrent Sync is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Linux Download and Install

Download the program from their web site, http://labs.bittorrent.com/experiments/sync.html. For Linux installs, make sure you download the correct file for your platform processor. The choices are ARM, PowerPC, i386, and x64. For most users, you will pick between i386 (32 bit) and x64 (64 bit). The program requires a kernel version of 2.6.16 and a glib version of 2.4. On most up-to-date distributions, you shouldn’t have any problem meeting these requirements.

To install the program, just unpack the file into a folder on your hard drive, open a command line in the folder, and run the following command:

./btsync

Add btsync to your startup programs (how this is done depends on the display manager you are using). On my Linux Mint box running Mate, Menu > Control Center > Startup Applications > Add. I named it “BitTorrent Sync”, added the path to btsync, and made a comment (not really necessary). Click Add. The next time you restart your computer, btsync will start automatically.

Add BTSync to startup in Linux Mint Mate

Add BTSync to startup in Linux Mint Mate

On my Linux Mint box running KDE, KDE Menu > Computer > System Settings > Startup and Shutdown > Add Program. Enter or browse to the path for btsync. Click OK. Fill in the information in the Properties tabs as you feel are best, nothing here is too critical. Click OK.

Add BTSync to Stratup in Linux Mint KDE

Add BTSync to Stratup in Linux Mint KDE

BitTorrent Sync Interface

The btsync interface is accessed through a web GUI on Linux. To access it, you use the computer’s IP (for most users, this will be localhost). The URL is http://yourcomputerip:8888/gui. On many computers that will translate to http://localhost:8888/gui.

BTSync Interface

BTSync Interface

The first time you open the interface, the interface has an empty list. To add a new synced folder from the current computer, click on the Add Folder button. Click on the Generate button to generate a Secret (passkey). You might want to make a note of the Secret created for use on other computers. Enter or browse to the folder you wish to sync. Click the Add button to add the folder to your synced folders.

To sync the same folder on another computer, install btsync on the computer using the same method listed above. Click on the Add Folder button in the web GUI. Enter the Secret generated on the first computer for the folder. Enter or browse to the folder where you want to sync the files on the second computer. If you failed to make a note of the Secret, you can click on the Get Secret button on the first computer to get the Secret. Click the Add button, and the folder is added. The status column in the list will update as the two folders sync. When it finishes, it will show you the date and time the sync completed.

Add a synced folder

Add a synced folder

Preferences

The Preferences button allows you to change the name of the device, the listening port, and the up and download load limits. In most cases, you will not need to change these, but they are there should you need to use them.

BTSync Preferences

BTSync Preferences

If you click on a gear icon button in the synced folders list, you get the preferences for the folder. You should not need to change any of the preferences on the General tab. One that is of value is the Delete File to Sync Trash. When this is checked, any deleted files that are deleted will move to a hidden folder under the synced folder named .SyncTrash. This can help you recover accidentally deleted files. I recommend it, just to be on the safe side.

Folder Preferences

Folder Preferences

On the Advanced tab, you will find the Secret for the folder. You can also generate a new Secret by clicking on the New button. If you create a new Secret, you will need to change it on all the computer that sync with that folder. There is also a secret for read-only. This is handy if you want to share a folder with someone, but don’t want them to change anything.

Folder Advanced Tab

Folder Advanced Tab

You can also create a one-time Secret, giving full access or read-only. A one-time Secret is a shorter Secret that can only be used once, usually within 24 hours. Once the one-time Secret is used, the person using the Secret gets the full secret along with the access designated, but the one-time Secret cannot be used again.

Final thoughts

BitTorrent Sync is a great solution for quick, secure, cloudless syncing of folders between computers. Did I mention that the transfer is encrypted? The biggest advantage is the lack of file size and space limits. You can sync large files without a problem, and the only space limit is the space available on your hard drive. The only limitation is the files cannot sync unless the computer you wish to sync with is on. I have used it and it is a great solution for many situations where you need to sync files between computers, but don’t really need the “cloud” as a middle man.

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3 comments on “Cloudless Sync with BitTorrent Sync Part 1: Linux

  1. gdazer says:

    Yep, btsync is fantastic. I also use it to sync with Apps that run with flat files. So things like Zim, Tomboy, RedNotebook are ideal to be shared across multiple devices, knowing that the connection is encrypted is a bonus. You can easily do away with Dropbox, Evernote.. anything which requires a cloud.

  2. […] I mentioned in my previous article, BTSync is an easy, secure way to sync data between multiple computers without the need for a […]

  3. Nice, I use it too, for Arch Linux user, it is available in AUR

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