Odrive first impressions (and a couple of issues)

Dear Madam or Sir,

Having just signed on Amazon Cloud Drive, I started testing several solutions to manage my files stored there and sync them.

I’ve tried the Amazon client to upload a back-up of my lossless Music collection to the cloud: it works, but it doesn’t sync and the upload speed wasn’t actually all that great. Moreover, the interface is really bad.

I’ve tried Expandrive, which works well to manage files already stored in the Cloud, but in my case at least offers very slow upload speeds.

I’ve uploaded an encrypted back-up of my work-related and personal files using Arq, which is a great solution, but makes the files a bit harder to restore (you need to work through Arq itself). However, you get access to all the backed-up versions of any given file, just like in TimeMachine, and it’s secure, so for work and personal files it’s perfect.

Then I tried odrive. Which is really great: upload speed to my Cloud Drive is very good, uploads happens transparently in the background and do not interfere with my work, and the ability to sync external folders and to “unsync” files is a boon. So far so good.

There are, however, a couple of issues.

First, at $99 a year, odrive is very expensive. It’s 50% more expensive than ACD itself. I don’t think I’ll be using the encrypted folder feature any time soon for instance, since I use Arq for sensitive files (which I want to back-up incrementally anyway), so I’m not sure that the ability to “unsync” files and to sync external drives and folders is worth that much money year after year. And without those features I just don’t see much use in odrive at all. So I’d suggest having at least an intermediate pricing option, around $30-50 a year, with the unsync and external storage features, but without the encryption and the upcoming backup features. That I’d be willing to pay.

Also, I’ve experienced a serious issue while testing odrive with my Dropbox account. After having uninstalled the Dropbox client from my Mac and while using only odrive to sync my account, I decided to move a folder around inside my Dropbox “Documents” folder. Bad idea: all the files inside the folder were subject to numerous sync operations, whereas they hadn’t been modified at all, and ended up with current creation and modification dates, probably because they took a round trip through the Dropbox server instead of remaining in their original state, which was not at all what I wanted. Not to mention the fact that the whole process was very inefficient and somewhat terrifying: since those were the original files, which I had simply moved on my main machine, what were they being synced with!?!

I then decided to run some tests, unlinking Dropbox from odrive, reinstalling Dropbox, cleaning up my Dropbox account to start anew, restoring the original files from a back-up, and then moving them once again, but with Dropbox managing the sync. And all went well: the files kept their original creation and modification dates and were not modified in any way.

So… I’ve decided to keep using Dropbox for now to manage the Dropbox folder. I just feel safer that way.

I still have a few more days to test the premium odrive features, so I’ll keep on doing that. However, given my experience with the program so far, and despite its great promises, I don’t think I can justify the cost of upgrading just yet.

Which brings me to my last gripe: once my trial ends, I’ll lose the “unsync” feature unless I upgrade. Which means that if I ever, by mistake, double-click on a folder or file I don’t want to download, I’ll then be stuck with a local copy I can’t get rid off unless I actually delete it from the cloud and re-upload it. And as far as I can tell, setting the Sync options to “Nothing” and ckecking the two checkboxes doesn’t do a thing to prevent accidental syncs.

If I’m mistaken, please let me know, but that issue alone, to me, makes the free version of odrive more trouble than it’s worth. I can work around the lack of syncing for external storage, but I can’t work around the traps that the free version lays around for me to fall into. So at least offer a preference somewhere to ask users of the free version to confirm donwloading/syncing items, since they can’t unsync then afterwards. And make sure the “Sync” options, when set to “Nothing” and applied to subfolders and new items, are actually enforced.

As it is, it feels as though you’re actually forcing my hand: either I want to actually use odrive and I must upgrade; or I just can’t use it at all if I want to avoid any headaches.

I hope you’ll find that feedback useful.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards.

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Hi @dadaix,
Thanks for reaching out and for the extensive feedback.

For your Dropbox move issue, this behavior is unexpected. odrive should’ve just synced a move of the folder. I will investigate this.

For unsync, it is a premium feature, but you can revert sections of your odrive to placeholders without it. Take a look at this post:

Hi Tony,

And thank you for your quick reply and for the tips about “unsyncing” files in the free version (though they’re not entirely practical to correct what could be nothing more than an unfortunate double-click on a placeholder: a checkbox in the preferences to get a warning before syncing would really be better for free users IMHO).

About Dropbox, I don’t know why moving the folder triggered a round trip through the Dropbox server. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I had a TimeMachine backup of the files, so I could restore the originals with the correct creation and modification dates. Those pieces of data are lost on my other Macs after the files go through Dropbox, but on my main machine, the original files normally retain their attributes. Having experienced that problem, I’ve decided to rely on the Dropbox client for now and only test odrive with my ACD and OneDrive accounts. As far as I can tell, there is no problem with using both clients side by side as long as I don’t link Dropbox to odrive and keep my Dropbox folder in its default location (i.e. not inside the odrive folder itself).

I’ve moved a lot of files inside my Dropbox folder on my main machine since then to test the Dropbox client and I haven’t experienced any issues: all the files have retained their original dates and were not affected by the moves. On my other Macs, the files were created anew when synced and have current dates, but that’s the way Dropbox works I guess (obviously DropBox doesn’t rely on those pieces of data to sync the files).

Last, I agree with @brlodi: you should offer at least one intermediate subscription option for people who only need the unsync feature, two if you want to distinguish the external storage option, which I also find very useful. But $99 is really too much: it’s an all or nothing approach, which is actually detrimental to your product IMO.

I really like odrive. And I might even get to love it. But the Dropbox issues and the current price tag for the unsync option are deal breakers right now.

Thank you for reading.

Best regards.

Edit: actually, it seems that Dropbox does maintain modification and creation dates when syncing files to other Macs. I created a new folder in my Dropbox Documents folder and moved a bunch of files into it and on the other Mac I use for testing the files appeared with the correct original dates. So something really strange happened with the odrive client.

Here are the steps I followed to trigger the issue:

— While running only the odrive client, I created a new folder in my Dropbox Documents folder.
— I then moved into it three folders previously located directly inside the Documents folder.
— odrive then stated syncing each and everyone of those folders, along with all the content, and I ended up with everything bearing the current date and time (at that particular time, I had my test Mac up and running with Dropbox disabled and odrive installed, but it was idling: I wasn’t doing anything on it and all the test were being run only on my main machine.)
— That particular new folder, even after being cleared via the Dropbox web site (I had quit odrive by then and I hadn’t reinstalled Dropbox yet) and being filled locally with restored files and folders bearing the correct dates, and while running once again the Dropbox client, when synced to my other Macs, kept offering files and folders with current dates on the synced Macs, and not the original dates.
— However, on my main Mac, the original files remained unaffected. That is, they kept their original dates, even though their synced copies had current ones.
— Last, creating another new folder, but this time while the Dropbox client was running the sync, not the odrive client, and then moving the original files and folders into it forced a new sync to the other Macs and this time the copied files did (and do) have the same dates as the original.

So, very strange behaviour indeed: why would creating a new folder under the odrive client and moving folders into it trigger such an issue?

I hope you’ll be able to figure it out. Best regards.

Hello again Tony.

While I’m still trying to determine whether I should upgrade my account when my trial period ends, I’ve run some more Dropbox sync tests. And as far as I can tell when odrive syncs files with Dropbox, it does strange things with the files’ modification date.

Attached are three screenshots. The first one represents the original files and folders. The second one the same files and folders synced by the Dropbox client. The third one the same files and folder synced by the odrive client. And, frankly, in that last case, the modification dates do not make sense for “synced” files.

Original folder:

Folder synced by Dropbox client:

Folder synced by odrive client:

As you can see, when the files and folders are synced by the Dropbox client, the folders’ modification dates may be a bit off, but not the files’. However, when it’s the odrive client that’s responsible for syncing the files and folders, the modification dates are usually wrong, but not always, or at least not always by much: it’s a crapshoot. And that’s worrying me. Not only does it make me question how the syncing operation can work given the fact that the copies do not carry the same modification dates as the original files, but also whether or not the original files are at risk of behind overwritten by their “odrived” copies, since those are supposed to be more recent after being synced by the odrive client.

I hope those pieces of information will help you understand what’s happening with odrive and Dropbox. As it is, I really can’t let odrive handle my Dropbox syncing. Which makes upgrading even more difficult to justify, unfortunately.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards.

Edit: after some more testing, it appears that sometimes the odrive client uses the modification date of the enclosing folder, as found on the Dropbox server (but not necessarily the actual modification date of the original “master” folder: see in the pictures above the case of the “JSTOR” folder), for all the files located inside, instead of preserving each file’s own modification date. So maybe that’s a behavior you can easily fix by making sure your client preserves the synced files’ modification dates instead of using the date of the enclosing folder, at least in some cases where it makes that mistake? Right now, it seems that the odrive client behavior when syncing files’ modification dates with Dropbox is quite unpredictable, which is problematic, to say the least.

Hi @dadaix,
Thanks for taking the time to provide all of these details. I went back and looked at my notes and the integration code and now I remember what the situation is here.

Currently we are not able to provide a modification time to Dropbox when we upload a file. When a file is saved to Dropbox, it is assigned a modified time as seen by their service. This is the time we use for displaying local modified time in the file system, too. This value is updated whenever the file is “modified”, as seen by the Dropbox service. In many cases, the “actual” modified time (referring to the time the file was modified locally) will be the same as the “service” modified time (the time that the new version of the file was uploaded). The “service” modified time on a file will change if its parent folder changes (moved/renamed, for example). This explains what you are seeing on your system.

Dropbox’s client is able to provide a modified time to the service, which is how they are accounting for “actual” modified time and can provide the results you are expecting.

With Dropbox’s V2 API, we will be able to handle all of this better as the new API provides ways to set the “actual” modified time on upload and then retrieve that in the future. We will be moving to the v2 API in the future, although I don’t have a specific time for availability.

My apologies for not remembering all of this previously, and for the confusion. It is sometimes difficult to keep track of all of the nuances/caveats of the integrations.

Hi Tony,

And thank you for your explanations. I guess I’ll wait for the improvements you plan to bring to your Dropbox integration before relying on odrive to deal with that service.

In the meantime,and despite this shortcoming, I’ve decided to upgrade to a Premium account in order to keep on using the Unsync and the External folder syncing features, which are really great when used in conjunction with an Amazon Cloud Drive.

However, I do think you should offer more subscription options. I don’t plan to use the encryption feature, and I use Arq for incremental backups, so I’d be very happy with an intermediate plan offering just unsync at will and external folder syncing.

Best regards.

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Hi Tony.

After using odrive extensively for over three weeks, I’ve decided to uninstall it and ask for a refund for the time being. I’ve left a comment on the page used to cancel my subscription, but I thought a brief summing up here might prove useful too.

There is a lot to love about odrive:

  • The interface is clean and unobtrusive.
  • odrive works very well with ACD: it’s fast and transparent.
  • “unsync” is a great feature.
  • external folder syncing is also great.

However:

  • Rather than put everything in a menu, bringing up a configuration window to handle external folders would probably be a better idea though, especially for people who sync a lot of those. Also, it would be useful to see which folders are encypted at a glance for instance, and for that a window could be useful. Last, it would be great to get a UI representation of the operation logs, so that one can better see what’s been synced, when etc. On the Mac, many applications work essentially through a menu, but can bring up a full window when needed for more complex operations.
  • Better Dropbox support is needed if odrive is to replace the native client: if Dropbox preserves creation and modification dates, you should to.
  • Currently, memory leaks on Mac OS X (EL capitan and Sierra at least) are crippling when syncing external folders: odrive must be quit and restarted regularly, which is untenable for a background sync service.
  • $99 is just too expensive: at least offer en $29-39 tier for people who only want to unsync and sync external folders, keeping the $99 option for people who need encryption and versioning/back-up (when available). And even then $99 will still be a lot for a yearly subscription. ACD is only €70 a year in Europe, so €90 for a better, but by no means irreplaceable, way to use it is very expensive. IMHO you shouldn’t price odrive more than $59-69 a year for the full package. Amazon is going to be the benchmark for cloud services: you shouldn’t cost more than it does.

Since I keep using the Dropbox client because of the current odrive’s shortcomings, my real use for the program is to manage my ACD account. So I’ve been looking for odrive replacements to sync with ACD.

  • I’ve been testing GoodSync with ACD for the past few days, and while it also has a few bugs and is not as clean as odrive (it leaves gsdata folders everywhere for instance, and feels like a Windows application ported to the Mac; and the learning curve is quite high), it works reasonably well and gets the job done. The cost is per computer, which makes pricing comparison more difficult, but if one uses mainly two computers, the total cost is a one-time $30 + $20 = $50. With upgrades priced at $20 + $10 when needed. Overall, a lot less that $99 a year. And if you want to use ACD as a back-up destination, from just one computer, then it’s only $30.
  • In the same vein, for people who need encryption and versioning, Arq is available now and it’s $50 for lifetime upgrades I think.

So the odrive princing model is really a big problem IMO right now.

But fix the reliability issues with Dropbox, fix the leaks on Mac OS X, and offer more flexible pricing options, and I’ll subscribe again on the spot.

I hope you’ll find that feedback useful.

Best regards.

Thanks for the feedback @dadaix.

For the issues you cited:

  • We just fixed the memory issue and its going through QA, so I expect that to be our early next week.
  • The Dropbox modtime functionality will be addressed with the new iteration of the Dropbox integration, although I don’t have a timeline on that yet.
  • For subscriptions, we realize that not everyone will need all of the features in Premium. We are working through some ideas on alternate subscriptions to accommodate users, such as you, that may only want a subset of the features.

I hope to see you back here in the future!

Hi Tony,

Well, I’m back already, thanks to your quick fix to the macOS memory leaks, which were the most pressing and crippling issue preventing me from using odrive.

Also, I’m sorry to day, GoodSync on the Mac proved to be quite a disappointment. Apart from the fact that the UI is pretty bad, the learning curve very steep and the application obviously meant to be Windows first (it doesn’t feel like a Mac application at all to say the truth), there are bugs which make the application unreliable to use as a back-up/sync solution with ACD.

So, since odrive handles ACD flawlessly in my experience and since the problems I have encountered with Dropbox just mean I must stick to the native client for the time being, I have decided to give odrive another chance.

About modTime on ACD, I have a question. Apparently, when one uploads a file to ACD, ACD sets the “added time” and the “modified time” to the same “upload” time, which doesn’t match the times (either creation or modification) on my Mac. How does odrive know that the files are the same to be able to sync them? Does it check the files’ length? Are there checksums involved? And does ACD offer any way to preserve or copy the original files’ creation and/or modification times?

I do rely on those pieces of metadata quite a bit when dealing with my data files on my Mac, which is why I need them to be preserved when using Dropbox (hence my bugging you about the fact that odrive doesn’t handle them properly for now when using it to sync with that service). So, if I ever were to try to use ACD as I do Dropbox to sync work files, I would really want those pieces of metadata to be saved… Any information you can give me on that particular topic will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards.

Hi @dadaix,
Amazon Drive doesn’t preserve original modtimes, as you have noticed. They don’t even offer a native way in their file object to to set it. They do allow setting arbitrary data, though, so we have used that to store the modtime. This allows odrive to properly set and pull the modtime, but only odrive.

As far as detecting modifications, Amazon has a metadata value that is updated whenever file content is changed.

Thanks a lot for those explanations. It was my understanding as well, and I understand now why odrive seems to work so much better with ACD than the alternatives.

A couple of suggestions:

  • Please consider offering a true configuration window, called via a Preferences or Settings item in the odrive menu, to manage synced folders and maybe encrypted folders also, rather than rely exclusively on the odrive menu. Some other features of the program may also be improved by being managed through a regular application preference window. Dealing with odrive entirely through its menu is a bit… weird. Especially for a program that offers such hidden depths.

  • Include an uninstaller along with the odrive installer: telling people to use the terminal application makes odrive sound like a program meant for power users. Also, when running your script, one doesn’t get rid of all the invisible .odrive files lying around in the previously synced external folders. An uninstaller may be able to grab the list of synced folder and clean up those files.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards.

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Just a quick note @dadaix that your two suggestions are items we have on our list. For the second, we want to get odrive into the app store, which will bring with it a proper uninstaller.