Monday, June 24, 2024

iCloud Drive, Dropbox, and Proton Drive

Ryan Christoffel (AppleInsider, MacRumors):

The problem is, Apple “intelligently” decides which files can remain stored in local cache, and will make decisions to remove certain downloads without telling you. So when you need to access a given file—say, on an airplane with no connection—you might find that the file has been sent back to the cloud and is no longer available.

iPadOS 18 changes that.

Not only on the iPad but also the iPhone in iOS 18, you can long-press on a file or folder and find a new ‘Keep Downloaded’ button in the menu.

Francisco Tolmasky:

Something lost in this “Dropbox is a feature, not a product” story is that today, more than 10 years later, iCloud Drive (Apple’s implementation of this “feature”) still sucks. And Dropbox is arguably only falling behind because macOS has made it increasingly difficult to make a 3rd party syncing solution that “just works.” So maybe the real lesson is that Apple, like Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger, “would see the [OS] burn, as long as they can be king of the ashes”.

The two main problems I’ve had with iCloud Drive are files not uploading promptly and needless eviction of recently downloaded files that I want to keep. The former seems to have gotten better over the last year, and it sounds like iOS 18 and Sequoia will address the latter.

Howard Oakley:

Unexpected behaviour is seen when the user turns off the setting to put Desktop & Documents Folders into iCloud Drive. Instead of moving the folders back from the iCloud Drive location to their original location, macOS creates fresh and empty folders in the regular Home folder. Although the contents of the previous Desktop and Documents folders are retained in iCloud Drive, when seen from their Mac, the user may believe that those entire contents have been deleted, despite an alert that tries to explain what will happen. At least this time the user is offered a way back to reconsider their action, although it’s unclear what other option they might have.

When turned off, those folders are removed with all their contents, which remain in iCloud Drive, but are absent from the empty local Documents and Desktop folders.

The saving grace to this counter-intuitive behaviour is that, despite their apparent movement, the files themselves have remained within the same volume throughout the process of ‘moving’ to iCloud Drive, and ‘vanishing’ on their return journey. As they retain the same inode numbers at each stage of these processes, when they’re finally ‘moved’ manually back into ~/Documents and ~/Desktop, they have remained intact, complete with all their extended attributes and any saved versions. Thus their ‘movements’ preserve both data and metadata at all times.

Tim Hardwick:

Apple wants iPhone and iPad users to be able to format external drives connected to their device, without the need for a Mac, based on the latest find in the iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 developer betas (via MacStories).


Anyway, I gave Proton Drive a real go but from the get go, it was disappointing at best. It took three attempts to transfer 6GB files from Dropbox to Proton Drive. The upload and download speeds was terrible. At this point, I went seeking for answers on Reddit and what I discovered was anecdotes from many Proton users on Proton Drive is just not ready. I should have done my research first.


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Been seeing people loosing their files on iCloud and even Apple tech's can't find them. If that is the case it's time to start using iCloud sparingly for garbage you don't want on you internal SSD. Anything important I would back up to an external SSD and not trust the clouds, especially Dropbox (they have been hacked twice in two years)

Nate Petersen

Unfortunately “Keep Downloaded” is only available in the Files app. Third-party apps are out of luck (except maybe if they use UIDocumentBrowserViewController - unclear):

After having tried Proton Drive on iOS and macOS for a few months, I can confirm it's horrible. It's so bad it shouldn't even be a Beta version...

It's astonishing that in 2024, my personal NextCloud VPS or Syncthing can outperform services like iCloud and Proton in keeping my files properly synchronized.

Unfortunately, NextCloud and Syncthing are also limited by Apples "walled garden" on iPhone and iPad so can't properly sync in the background (which is fine on macOS.)

At this point, I just assume that cloud drives in general do not work on Apple's devices. I recently needed to keep some directories on Google Drive stored locally, and after literal days of failed attempting to get my Mac to sync them and keep them locally, I gave up and used a Windows device. Worked on the first try.

Yup. iCloud Drive might have the first-party advantage and hence be "best", but it's still shite especially on iOS where it fails to sync consistently, especially downloading data for document-based apps in the background. I finally got fed up and switched my Strongbox sync from iCloud to sftp, accessing my Mac Mini server through a Cloudflare Warp tunnel. Number of issues since then: 0. It's so damned good I am constantly amazed by it, and how utterly fucking magical it is that I can sync passwords twixt home and smartphone, wherever I am, sans central server. Just wonderful.

I hate wrangling with the iOS file sync middleware. I always assume that it might not be working correctly. The old Dropbox with the dedicated sync Folder was the best solution for my taste. Nowadays, I just use SMB shares in my LAN and Syncthing for a small subset of files that I want synced in the background.

The only “cloud drive” solution I have found that is rock-solid on macOS is from little-known (but decidedly not fly-by-night) European company Tresorit. They offer an E2EE cloud storage service which mostly relies on their own syncing logic on the Mac. In years, I have not managed to trip it once, nor have I had any issues with the iOS app.

Amusingly — but not surprisingly — their newer Finder integration features, which do appear to rely on Apple’s own APIs are much less reliable and their integration on iOS is a non-starter. Luckily, they remain entirely optional.

Proton Drive is a mess like all Proton apps and services within the first four or five years of their life. Proton always launches horrible messes, sits on them, then miraculously flips a switch after a few years and climbs out of the various holes they dug themselves into. I should give a lot to understand why that is. (I remember when editing contact cards in their iOS Mail app would delete your entire address book, a bug which remained unaddressed for weeks after being reported.)

In all fairness, though, I feel a lot of Proton’s syncing issues on macOS should be laid at Apple’s door. Unlike Tresorit, which is much older, Proton Drive launched from the get-go on the Mac as a native client using Apple’s File Provider frameworks, which seem unable to handle large-scale re-syncs, initial downloads, or concurrency… To Proton’s credit, I have never experienced any data loss as a result of these bugs, merely inconvenience, and their web app (of limited utility, admittedly) is rock-solid.

And ...

Strongbox no longer recommends using iCloud or the Files method, now that they have Strongbox Sync, which appears to work by transparently authenticating you based on your Apple account identifiers, somehow.

A bit of an indictment, really.

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