I recently got a laptop to use for web development work when I travel. I wanted a simple way to sync up the data between it and my Desktop computer so that they would both have the same bookmarks, emails, instant message logs, etc. Along comes unison to save the day. It ended up being MUCH easier than I expected.
Both computers are running Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon" and are connected to my router--the Desktop is hard wired (Ethernet) and the laptop uses a WiFi connection. The desktop will be running an SSH server which will be used by Unison on the laptop to synchronize the folders of my choosing. The laptop will initialize the sync through a unison GUI: gtk-unison
Configure Desktop Computer
The laptop will be connecting to the desktop over an SSH (secure shell) connection. Moreover, I'll be able to connect to the desktop from my laptop and browse/copy any files I need.
First, I changed the desktop computer's "Host Name" to something that makes sense in the 'Network Settings' dialog ('System' > 'Administration' > 'Network'). I used "Desktop".
Next, I installed the necessary software on the desktop:
sudo aptitude install openssh-server unison
Then, I configured the SSH server so that my user "micah" could log in over an SSH connection and that root login was NOT allowed. I did this by editing '/etc/ssh/sshd_config'. I changed:
And then I added:
And finally, restarted the SSH service:
The desktop computer already has all the data I need the computers to share. However, there is one "gotcha" for Mozilla products. They use a random folder name for you profile. I'm going to want this to be the same so that both computers versions of Firefox and Thunderbird share data.
For Firefox I renamed the profile folder in .mozilla/firefox to 'micah.default' and edited .mozilla/firefox/profiles.ini to reflect this change. I did the same thing in .mozilla-thunderbird/ for Thunderbird--my email client.
Configure Laptop Computer
On the laptop, I first installed all the software that will be sharing this data. For me, this was Firefox, Pidgin (formerly gaim), Thunderbird, MySQL Query Browser, and gFTP. Next, I renamed the profiles for Mozilla products as described in the previous section. Finally, I installed unison and it's graphical user interface:
sudo aptitude install unison unison-gtk
The unison program will now be available from 'Applications' > 'Internet' > 'Unison', however, we'll need to setup a profile to tell unison what to synchronize. We can do this with a profile file. I'm going to create one called "Desktop" by creating a text file in ~/.unison as follows:
mkdir ~/.unison touch Desktop.prf gedit Desktop.prf
There are numerous ways you can setup your profile. The easiest way would be to simply sync up the entire home folder, however, I have a LOT of data in my home directory and don't want it all synchronized. Furthermore, my desktop is an AMD64 architecture while my laptop is i386 which will cause problems with Firefox/Thunderbird if they share extensions and plugins. I need to share ONLY the data.
Here's my Desktop.prf file. The comments should let you know what's going on:
### ROOT SYNC PATHS ### # first root is my home directory on this laptop root = /home/micah/ # second directory is my desktop's home folder over SSH root = ssh://email@example.com//home/micah/ ### PATHS TO SYNCHRONIZE ### # sync all of my email data (will ignore parts later) path = .mozilla-thunderbird/micah.default/ # only sync up bookmarks for firefox path = .mozilla/firefox/micah.default/bookmarks.html # sync all gFTP for the bookmarks and cache path = .gftp/ # gaim/pidgin IM client logs and settings path = .purple/ # MySQL Query Browser information and history path = .mysqlgui/ # Personal folders path = finances/ path = websites/ path = projects/ path = robotics/ path = email_signature ### IGNORE RULES ### # ignore archived backups ignore = Path websites/archive/* # ignore the extensions folder in thunderbird as they are architecture-specific ignore = Path .mozilla-thunderbird/micah.default/extensions/* # I don't think these will break anything, but let's ignore anyway ignore = Path .mozilla-thunderbird/micah.default/compatibility.ini ignore = Path .mozilla-thunderbird/micah.default/install.log
Now, I can run Unison and select my "Desktop" profile. I do this before leaving on a trip with my laptop and then again when I return.