Odrive cloud sync - Thunderstruck


Updated: November 7, 2016

One cloud to rule them all. One cloud to find them. One cloud to bring them all. And in the darkness bind them. Or something. Anyhow, introducing odrive, a universal sync client for all them clouds out there. It's supposed to simple to use, secure and fun.

Which is why we are here. I have never been too keen on cloud storage, all those different providers all look and behave the same, and ultimately, you rely on someone else having access to your stuff. Not necessarily in a bad way, but you get the drift. All of which makes odrive both compelling and utterly unnecessary in my vocabulary. But let's be optimistic and see what it can do.

Teaser

Test o-drive

I decided to check the program in Fedora, because one of the selling points of this software is cross-platform compatibility. You start by signing into an existing account with some of the big providers out there. I find this somewhat dubious. For example, why would you use a Facebook login for this kind of thing? And then, if you do, why does odrive need to receive information on user profiles, public information, videos, or images? This sounds like pure and unnecessary data harvesting for some higher marketing purpose sometime in the future.

Sign in

Allow access

Once you are logged in, you have a very simple control panel that lets you add storage from some 20 odd providers, create shares, create encrypted folders, and such. Then, you can also download client software to actually allow and enable data sync between your host and the remote storage.

Choose storage

To see how it all works, I started by adding Dropbox. Yes, you need to login into Dropbox, and then allow odrive to use it. In a way, odrive is a unified gateway to all these different services. And it reminds me of Franz, an IM/VoIP-service broker thingie. I guess after we've seen an explosion of technologies and services in pretty much every area of the Web, the next step is convergence and consolidation and whatnot. Orchestration I think is the word the pundits love to use to appear smart and buzzwordly.

Allow access to Dropbox

Storage added

Encryption

I also decided to create an encrypted folder, which sounds like a cool idea. After all, you don't want others to be able to see your data, right? Anyhow, the setup is trivial, but I was still not quite sure when, where and how I'd find the encrypted folder on my local host. It sure had been created in Dropbox, but not in my Fedora instance.

Create encrypted folder

Review encryption settings

This is where it all gets interesting ...

The client software is the weakest link of this whole thing. Looking at the usage guide, it involves way, way too much command line work. Even on Windows seemingly. In Linux, you need to download a set of CLI tools and then use them to setup odrive.

od="$HOME/.odrive-agent/bin" && curl -L "http://dl.odrive.com/odrive-py" --create-dirs -o "$od/odrive.py" && curl -L "http://dl.odrive.com/odriveagent-lnx-64" | tar -xvzf- -C "$od/" && curl -L "http://dl.odrive.com/odrivecli-lnx-64" | tar -xvzf- -C "$od/"

Not only do I find this extremely nerdy - I want a simple tool that does everything automatically, and if anything, I'd like to have a GUI setup for this kind of work, thank you very much, the critical instructions on how to accomplished the required tasks were terribly confusing. The first line always had a very generic explanation that did not tell much, parts of the Python set of scripts were not provided with the installer, so they would not really run, and there were no practical examples on any one command.

You actually start the client with nohup, which is not really the right way of doing it. The software should be properly installed and configured, but then I guess creating binaries for half a dozen different distributions using the pointless systemd framework is quite difficult and time-consuming. Hence this somewhat amateurish solution.

I tried a few basic commands, and the client was not authenticated. I had to create an authentication key first, and then make the agent on my laptop use it. The standard private key thingie wossname.

python "$HOME/.odrive-agent/bin/odrive.py" authenticate
b8595fe0-caf1-42dc-80fa-04bffa9dfa1d-55af68a1
Hello Johnny Cash

Status

Then, I had to mount a local drive and make it sync with odrive. The manual process was really really putting me off this effort. This is tedious, geeky and pointless, and I really don't like using Python.

python "$HOME/.odrive-agent/bin/odrive.py" mount "$HOME/odrive-agent-mount" /
/home/roger/odrive-agent-mount is now synchronizing with odrive.

How about a little sync? Well, no can do:

python "$HOME/.odrive-agent/bin/odrive.py" sync "\$HOME/odrive-agent-mount/Encryptor.cloudf"
Unable to sync Encryptor.cloudf.  This file is not inside an odrive folder.

For some reason, odrive was not liking my attempts. Reading through the official forums, someone suggested refreshing the contents of the odrive folder, which I did. This, however, did not help in any way. Do notice, binary versus Python. Nope.

"$HOME/.odrive-agent/bin/odrive" refresh "$HOME/odrive-agent-mount/"
Synced
Encryptor.cloudf
Facebook.cloudf
VLC-3.0.0.gitfeb851a.glibc2.17-x86-64.AppImage
Dropbox.cloudf

I kept getting the 'not inside an odrive folder' error, and that was it.

Conclusion

As a concept, odrive kicks ass. It really has the potential to be an excellent little tool that saves people the time and overhead of managing a dozen different cloud storage solutions. Really neat. But the realization of this concept is flawed.

Yes, beta, and all that. However, the issue is not strictly limited to just maturity. One, I really see no reason why this application should use social media for login. That really has no value. Second, command-line is fine, in ADDITION to a nice and stable GUI that normal people can use with ease and glee. Third, wiki pages, usage guides and other articles must all be impeccable. Clear, precise, and accompanied with examples. My struggle is nothing too special, but it does not add in any positive way to the overall experience.

Seriously, why would I need to authenticate on the command line, or do any kind of mounts. Take Dropbox as a counter-example. It does its stuff quickly and easily. The same goes for Copy. I've tried a few of these cloud thingies, and they were all rather simple and straightforward. I expect the same from odrive, doubly so, because it needs to be better and more elegant than all the other storage providers combined.

I will keep an eye, because I like the idea, a lot. Only at the moment, I do not see any real, practical value to odrive. The real issue lies in the technical difficulty in getting the software running, the lack of a proper service, and incomplete documentation. Maybe one day. See you. 

Cheers.

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