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5 April, 2013

The sad unreliability of Ubuntu One

I started using Ubuntu One more or less when it was first released. Admittedly it was pretty slow in the beginning, but they seemed to improve their speeds a lot and eventually I began to pay for extra space and use Ubuntu One exclusively for all my cloud syncing – some 3000 files from my entire Documents folder, and around 1,500 pictures. I used two Ubuntu machines and I thought U1 worked pretty well in making sure that I always had the most recent versions of everything on both machines.

I first noticed a problem with the syncing when by accident I noticed a that a folder which showed up on the U1 web interface was not on my computer. I tried various things to get this to work, trying all the command line options to u1sdtool, restarting, stopping/starting syncing etc. Eventually I wrote about it on Ask Ubuntu, and ended up getting in touch with U1 support. Their solution was to essentially clear all the cached syncing info on my machine and start again. Admittedly, this worked (although it did require that U1 scan and compare every single file again). I got the missing folder to sync, and everything seemed OK.

Things seemed OK for a few months. The a few weeks ago I got a new machine, a MacBook Pro. I still use Ubuntu at work, and since there is a U1 client for OSX I thought there should be no problem in continuing to use Ubuntu one for my syncing. This is when things really started going downhill. The initial sync on my Mac worked fine – I mean essentially it’s just downloading everything, pretty straightforward. But then I began to notice that some changes made would not get noticed by U1. Say I would delete a file from my Mac, but it would still appear in the web interface even though the U1 client would tell me that everything was up-to-date. This is really when I began to stop trusting it. Again I would try all the command line options for refreshing the sync folders, nothing. When I contacted U1 support again, they just had exactly the same solution – delete the caching data and re-sync. I did, it took it’s time to re-check every single file, and again things seemed OK again. But then I would add/delete some other file and notice that again that Ubuntu One would fail to notice them. There are things you can do to force it to notice the changes, like restarting the computer or un-checking and re-checking the “Sync locally” checkbox inside the client. But that defeats the whole purpose.

To make things worse, I’m also starting to notice this same erratic syncing behaviour from my Ubuntu machine too. And now I have absolutely no idea if there even exists a single complete version of all my files, anywhere. It feels like every computer I used U1 has some copy of my files, but is never 100% complete/updated. It’s a mess. There’s just too many files to check manually. I have backups, and I hope that when I look for a file and find that Ubuntu One has lost it, I can find it by digging into these backups. But that’s hardly a solution.  I absolutely cannot trust Ubuntu One anymore.

But I still want a cross-platform syncing solution. iCloud doesn’t have an Ubuntu client (and I haven’t heard good things about it anyway). Neither does Google Drive, although they keep promising one “soon”. Dropbox has clients for both and is starting to look like a real viable alternative now. I guess it’s popularity compared to U1 will mean it’s more reliable. But it’s going to take some work to move everything over, and I really want to avoid switching.


  1. I have the same issue. I’m using Ubuntu-one for several years now, and it is not a very save system to use. What happens to me is tha the contants of certain folders just disappear. I am glad to make local copys as well with FreeFileSync to a USB drive. Now I am switching to Dropbox and to Copy. The both seem to be reliable and have clients for both Ubuntu, other Linux distros (Ubuntu one hasn’t), Mac (I don’t use Apple), Windows and Android. Copy offers 15 Gb of free space and another 5 if you use this link to join them. https://copy.com?r=JaDdBU

    Comment by Jeroen — 14 November, 2013 @ 12:07 am

  2. You might check into Wuala http://www.wuala.com/
    While Dropbox is great, I don’t like how everything has to be located inside the Dropbox folder in order for it to sync. I prefer the Ubuntu One approach whereby you can select folders (e.g., Pictures, Music, Documents, etc.) to sync and backup. Wuala allows this. Another advantage of Wuala is the encryption. It seems that it is more secure than Dropbox with a similar price tag. Lastly, it is cross-platform solution including applications for Ubuntu, Mac OSX, Android, etc. I believe it uses the GTK toolkit so it blends in nicely with most linux DEs (e.g., Unity, Gnome, KDE, XFCE). The main drawback on my linux boxes is that it seems to use a more RAM than Dropbox since it is a Java application. A drawback specifically in Unity is that the tray icon may be blacklisted but I believe there is a fix available.

    Comment by Mark — 22 November, 2013 @ 1:05 am

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