What We Want from Dropbox

I don’t know how I ever got along before Dropbox, which lets me sync files on any of my Macs running OS X 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, and 10.9 Mavericks.

dropbox-header

Dropbox also lets me selectively sync files, so some files are only on my old Power Mac G4 and G5, some only on my Intel-based Mac mini and MacBook. Also, my iPhone uploads photos to Dropbox, so they’re also available on my Macs.

Dropbox is brilliant. It keeps track of all the files in your Dropbox folder in the cloud, and it automagically updates any file you’ve modified to each machine that has it in its Dropbox folder. And to improve efficiency, Dropbox can also sync files between machines (Macs, Windows PCs, Linux boxes, etc.) on the same network.

What Dropbox Says

On January 22, Dropbox posted the following explanation:

We understand this is disruptive to some of our users and that’s why we’ve announced this many months in advance. I’ve read all of your responses and wanted to provide some additional background on why we’re ending support for OS X 10.4 and 10.5.

Supporting these old versions of OS X would come at the expense of improvements for more recent versions of OS X. Allowing people to continue running what would become an old version of the desktop client is not an option because sometimes we must make non-backwards compatible changes to the way the client talks to the Dropbox servers.

Continuing to have our desktop client support 10.4 and 10.5 would come at the expense of improving the experience for more recent versions of OS X. The latest versions of several important components (3rd party software libraries) we rely upon no longer support 10.4 or 10.5. These updated versions have important improvements, bug fixes, and additional functionality. It would be a disservice to the vast majority of our Mac users running recent versions of OS X if we did not update to the latest versions of these components.

Several of you have suggested allowing people to continue using the current version of the desktop client (which in time would become an old version of the desktop client). This would not work because from time to time we must make non-backwards compatible changes to the way the desktop client communicates with our servers. For example in the coming months we will need to make a change to how we represent the underlying identifier we use for certain types of folders. This change is needed because Dropbox has become so much more popular than we initially imagined that we’ll need to switch from using a 32-bit identifier to a 64-bit identifier. This is just one example of a breaking change that periodically must be made.

I suspected development tools might have been an issue, and Dropbox confirms that, stating that “several important components . . . no longer support 10.4 or 10.5.” Also that it would be a disservice to other Mac users to hold back their version of Dropbox for the sake of Tiger and Leopard users.

They also indicate that because of ongoing changes, it is not possible to continue to support the current version of Dropbox after May 18. The changes, such as moving to 64-bit identifiers, are incompatible with the Dropbox software installed on OS X 10.4 and 10.5 Macs.

Why We’re Upset with Dropbox

Last week, Dropbox announced that as of May 18, 2015, Dropbox on Macs running OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard would no longer sync with its servers. For those of us still using Tiger and Leopard as part of our production environment, this is going to really throw a wrench in the works. Starting on May 18, I can no longer know whether the files on my Power Macs match those on my MacBook and Mac mini.

Dropbox counters that we will still be able to use the web interface, but that won’t automatically sync changes. When I go through the original Low End Mac HTML files and globally update old links to new URLs, I’m not going to wade through dozens or hundreds of folders to identify and update the changed files to my old reliable Power Macs. It’s simply not practical.

This is especially important if you are still using a G3 or G4 PowerBook or iBook in the field, perhaps even away from the Internet, or if you’re using a PowerPC Mac with Tiger or Leopard away from your primary setup.

Is There an Alternative for Tiger and Leopard Users?

I don’t know of any Dropbox alternative that works with OS X 10.4 and 10.5 on PowerPC Macs. Here are the options that include Mac support. Only one supports OS X 10.5 Leopard, and that requires a 64-bit Intel CPU. None support OS X 10.4 Tiger or PowerPC Macs.

  • Microsoft OneDrive – 15 GB free. Requires OS X 10.7.3 Lion or newer.
  • Google Drive – 15 GB free. Requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer.
  • SugarSync – From $9.99/month. Requires OS X 10.7 Lion or newer.
  • Box.com – 10 GB free. Version history from $5/month. Requires OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or newer. (Lion support dropped 2014.10.31.)
  • Apple iCloud – 5 GB free. Requires OS X 10.7.5 Lion or newer, some features require newer versions.
  • Wuala.com – 5 GB free. Requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer.
  • TeamDrive – 10 GB free. Requires OS X 10.5.3 Leopard or newer on Intel Mac.
  • CloudMe – 3 GB free. Requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer and 64-bit Intel CPU (Core Duo not supported).
  • Copy.com – 15 GB free. Requires OS X 10.7 or newer.

The following allow you to store data on your own hardware, rather than in the cloud, so storage is limited only by drive size.

  • AeroFS – Free for up to 3 users, then $10/user per month. Requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer.
  • OwnCloud – Free, open source. Requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer.

In the end, lots of options for Intel Mac users. All but one are compatible with OS X 10.7 Lion, and many support 10.6 Snow Leopard. Only one supports Leopard, and then only on Intel. None support Tiger. None support PowerPC.

As far as I can tell, Dropbox is the only game in town for Tiger and PowerPC Macs, and in just four months, it will no longer support us.

What Can Dropbox Do?

In the best of all possible worlds, Dropbox would maintain support for PowerPC Macs in the current version of its software. This is what Dropbox has been doing since 2008. However, according to its statement, that is not viable going forward. As Dropbox moves to a new code base with new features and capabilities, it will no longer be able to offer Tiger, Leopard, or PowerPC support.

The best alternative would be a separate version of Dropbox specifically for Tiger and Leopard on both PowerPC and Intel Macs, assuming this is possible in light of under-the-hood changes coming Real Soon Now. If Dropbox does not want to fund such a project, perhaps a Kickstarter campaign would show sufficient support for it. Or maybe some programmers are willing to step up to the plate, as the TenFourFox team did with Firefox, and create a parallel product (assuming Dropbox would bless such a project) to keep Dropbox working on Tiger and Leopard.

Another option would be to develop a Dropbox compatible client that might only work over a local network, so these old Macs would never have to actually connect to Dropbox cloud servers. Instead, a supported Mac or PC running Dropbox might handle all the details on behalf of the Tiger and Leopard Macs.

Yet another possibility would be a separate program that could track changes between folders on different machines (Macs, PCs, Linux boxes) and sync them locally with no need to deal with Dropbox servers, not even through a proxy. As long as one machine on the network syncs to Dropbox itself, the rest would keep up to date by syncing to its Dropbox folder.

Possible Workarounds

The ideal is to have your files synced between machines, but one option is to turn on File Sharing on a newer Mac with Dropbox support and connect to its Dropbox folder from your Macs running Tiger and Leopard. This would be less efficient and put more of a load on the sharing Mac, but it’s definitely an option.

Setting up a personal cloud system sounds like a good possibility, but they don’t tend to offer the same kind of automatic sync to each client machine that Dropbox has been giving us for years. With a cloud solution, you need to be connected to the Internet and work from the cloud server.

If you know of a good alternative, please share it in the comments. We need to find a way to continue accessing Dropbox from our Tiger and Leopard Macs or find a solution that will work as transparently on both our OS X 10.4 and 10.5 Macs as well as our newer Macs, PCs, etc.

You may also want to sign our petition asking Dropbox to find some way to continue to support Tiger and Leopard users.

Keywords: #dropboxppc #dropboxpowerpc #dropboxtiger #dropboxleopard

Short link: http://goo.gl/J53Wi6

searchword: whatwewantfromdropbox

One thought on “What We Want from Dropbox

  1. TeamDrive offers 2 GB for free, up to 10 GB only when you invite other users successfully.
    Their client-software teamdrive 3.3.1 is offered in two different versions, one for 10.5/Leopard, one for 10.6/Snow Leopard and newer.
    „TeamDrive 3 wird weiter OSX 10.5.x unterstützen. Die neue TeamDrive 4 Version wird 10.5. nicht mehr unterstützen. Die Versionen sind aber kompatible zu einander.“ (TeamDrive 3 will continue to support 10.5. The new TeamDrive 4 won’t support 10.5, but both versions will be compatible with each other.) TeamDrive Support, e-mail 2015-02-17.
    So just in case Dropbox really shuts down for 10.5-users I installed TeamDrive 3 on my MacBooks. But I still hope they (or someone else) will continue dropbox-support not only for Intel-Macs, so that all those people still working with PPC-Macs can go on working with them (and prevent planned obsolescence).