Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dropbox arghhhhh you goofed.

Like many others I have become dependent on Dropbox to share files between the various internet connected devices in my life. A recent update to the mobile version of Dropbox for Android made an such an enormous boo boo that I am surprised that there has been no outcry about it.

To understand the gaff you must understand how Dropbox works on mobile devices. On a normal computer Dropbox keeps a full copy of every file in your Dropbox folder and constantly keeps these files updated via the internet. This approach would be far too expensive in memory and data allowance for a phone so the mobile version of dropbox does not keep a local copy of every file but instead only downloads files to a cache directory as you need them. Once you accept that you have to manually upload and download the system is a reasonable compromise and programs can still work on the copy of the file stored on the cache directory.

So far so good but a recent update to Dropbox made several changes. First they moved the location of the cache from /mnt/sdcard/dropbox to /mnt/android/data/com.dropbox.android/files/scratch. This change is more of a nuisance than a serious problem because it breaks any links in programmes that used files stored in the cache directory.

The real gaff however was that the update deleted the original cache folder and everything in it. Deleting user data files is always a no no. I was unfortunate enough to be in an area without internet when I realised what had happened and I was rightly annoyed to discover that my offline versions of several key data files had ben deleted. Others may have lost recently changed data files that had not yet been synchronised to the internet.

Terrible move Dropbox. Never delete a user's own data files without warning.

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