Using Digitalocean Spaces to sync between computers

by Mitja Felicijan

I've been using Dropbox for probably 10+ years now and I-ve became so used to it that it runs in the background that I don't even imagine a world without it. But it's not without problems.

At first I had problems with .venv environments for Python and the only solution for excluding synchronization for this folder was to manually exclude a specific folder which is not really scalable. FYI, my whole project folder is synced on Dropbox. This of course introduced a lot of syncing of files and folders that are not needed or even break things on other machines. In the case of Python, I couldn't use that on my second machine. I needed to delete .venv folder and pip it again which synced files again to the main machine. This was very frustrating. Nodejs handles this much nicer and I can just run the scripts without deleting node_modules again and reinstalling. However, node_modules is a beast of its own. It creates so many files that OS has a problem counting them when you check the folder contents for size.

I wanted something similar to Dropbox. I could without the instant syncing but it would need to be fast and had the option for me to exclude folders like node_modules, .venv, .git and folders like that.

I went on a hunt for an alternative to Dropbox and found:

You know, the usual list of suspects. I didn't include Google drive or One drive since they are even more draconian than Dropbox.

All this does not stem from me being paranoid but recently these companies have became more and more aggressive and they keep violating our privacy when they share our data with 3rd party services. It is getting out of control.

So, my main problem was still there. No way of excluding a specific folder from syncing. And before we go into "But you have git, isn't that enough?", I must say, that many of the files (PDFs, spreadsheets, etc) I have in a git repo don't get pushed upstream to Git and I still want to have them synced across my computers.

I initially wanted to use rsync but I would need to then have a remote VPS or transfer between my computers directly. I wanted a solution where all my files could be accessible to me without my machine.

WARNING: This solution will cost you money! DigitalOcean Spaces are $5 per month and there are some bandwidth limitations and if you go beyond that you get billed additionally.

Then I remembered that I could use something like S3 since it has versioning and is fully managed. I didn't want to go down the AWS rabbit hole with this so I choose DigitalOcean Spaces.

Then I needed a command-line tool to sync between source and target. I found this nice tool s3cmd and it is in the Ubuntu repositories.

sudo apt install s3cmd

After installation will I create a new Space bucket on DigitalOcean. Remember the zone you will choose because you will need it when you will configure s3cmd.

Then I visited Digitalocean Applications & API and generated Spaces access keys. Save both key and secret somewhere safe because when you will leave the page secret will not be available anymore to you and you will need to re-generate it.

# enter your key and secret and correct endpoint
# my endpoint is ams3.digitaloceanspaces.com because
# I created my bucket in Amsterdam regiin
s3cmd --configure

After that I played around with options for s3cmd and got to the following command.

# I executed this command from my projects folder
cd projects
s3cmd sync --delete-removed --exclude 'node_modules/*' --exclude '.git/*' --exclude '.venv/*' ./ s3://my-bucket-name/projects/

When syncing int he other direction you will need to change the order of the SOURCE and TARGET to s3://my-bucket-name/projects/ and ./.

Be sure that all the paths have trailing slash so that sync knows that this are directories.

I am planning to implement some sort of a .ignore file that will enable me to have a project-specific exclude options.

I am currently running this every hour as a cronjob which is perfectly fine for now when I am testing how this whole thing works and how it all will turn out.

I have also created a small Gnome extension which is still very unstable, but when/if this whole experiment pays of I will share on Github.