Using Dropbox without Gnome


If you haven’t heard about Dropbox you have probably been living under a rock for the last month or two. It is the latest and the greatest file syncing project out there. I usually describe it to people as a cross between rsync and web 2.0 application. Only more intuitive. The concept is simple – Dropbox gives you a free 2GB of space on their server. You install their client, add a computer to your account and designate a folder on your drive. Anything in that folder will be automatically synced up with Dropbox’s server almost in real time. Trust me it is fast!

That’s not all though. If you add more than one computer to your account, Dropbox will automatically sync the files from all of them. So the latest change you do on your desktop will be seamlessly pushed out to your laptop, and your work computer. You don’t really have to do anything – you just save files into your dropbox folder and they get updated everywhere. And if you are away from your machines, you can access your files via their web interface. It’s great.

Naturally, you should be concerned with privacy issues but that’s what encryption is for. I wouldn’t put any sensitive data in that special folder without encrypting it first. But that’s besides the point. The service just works, and has clients for Windows, Apple and Linux. Well, almost.

Here is my problem with the service – the Linux client is heavily dependent on Gnome and Nautilus. This sucks for me, because I’m a die-hard KDE user who runs Kubuntu. I checked what it would take for me to install Nautilus and ended up with over 200 packages that needed to be downloaded. Nope! I’m not doing that. I decided to pass on the Gnome client and wait for a KDE or at least a command line version. There is a project to develop KDE client on Launchpad but it seems to be in very early stages of development. It might actually be abandoned or simply parked for future use. I have been checking it almost daily for like a week now, and I have yet to see any activity there.

So while my windows boxes have been seemlesly syncing school related files (ppt slides, handouts, etc..) my Kubuntu laptop was cut off from the fun. I had a client running in the Virtual Windows XP that I have on that machine but it’s not the same. It was annoying. Today my problem was solved by Mr. Deepak who wins 1 Internet for his solution which turned out to be astonishingly simple:

  1. Download the generic linux binaries
  2. Un-tar them and put the .dropbox-dist folder in your home diretory
  3. Run ~/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd to initiate the graphical configuration dialog, and add your computer to the account
  4. Finally do: ln -s ~/.dropbox.dist/dropboxd ~/.kde/Autostart/dropboxd to always run dropboxd daemon at login

No Gnome needed. You don’t get fancy little sync icons on your files, and you don’t get a taskbar doodad that will let you know whether or not the syncing up finished but the daemon works. Files are getting uploaded to the dropbox server without any issues or interruptions behind the scenes. I can’t believe I didn’t think of ever trying that. It was so simple!

Some Dolphin/Konqueror integration would be nice of course but I don’t mind dealing with background process magic for now. As long as my files are getting synced in the mysterious dropbox way I’m happy. Thanks Deepak!

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13 Responses to Using Dropbox without Gnome

  1. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Good information for those using drop box. Personally I don’t trust them with my data – not because of privacy issues (of course I’d encrypt anything sensitive), but because I can’t be sure they’re a long term solution.

    This is a trick I learned on reddit that I thought was pretty awesome. If you’ve got a public IP you can access files from anywhere. If not, you can still access them locally. Much easier than setting up a smb share for something quick.

    In your .bashrc:

    alias webshare='python -c "import SimpleHTTPServer;SimpleHTTPServer.test()"'

    Then go to whatever folder you want to share, type “webshare”, and get whoever to open up a web browser and go to http:// your ip address:8000. Not sure if this would work on windows, but it’s been a godsend to me on linux.

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  2. Nathan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Wow, I was just thinking about this today. Thanks for doing my work for me :)

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  3. feeshy Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Dropbox under GNOME is great. I’m a big fan.

    Man this KDE vs GNOME thing grates me. Not that I think either is better – its just that it fragments the target for commercial applications on Linux. And while I know you can run both (200 packages later) – things like Amarok and Opera look so ugly in gnome that I’ll always choose the alternative. People should start realising that it isn’t so much “I run Linux” as much as its “I run Desktop Environment X”.

    No solution in sight and its still better than running windows.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @jambarama: Nice! Still, dropbox is a bit sleeker than that and works on windows and linux alike. I tried like 50 different methods of syncing commonly used files between my desktop, laptop and work computer and this is by far the simplest, and most straightforward way. And it’s really fast too. So I like it. :)

    @feeshy: Well, you will probably hate me but I also run Ratpoison on an old laptop. And IceWM on another. :P

    I just personally prefer KDE – I used Gnome before and it always seemed awkward. Even the new shiny gnome in Hardy seems a bit funny to me.

    This is what linux is all about – choice! I would not have it any other way.

    As for “commercial applications” all they need to do is to distribute statically linked binaries. For example see the generic Linux version of Firefox you can download from Mozilla’s webpage. It has no dependencies at all. Granted, DropBox could not really ship it’s own version of Nautilus but other applications can easily do this.

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  5. Nathan Baker UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox SuSE Linux says:

    It’s also worth noting that if you’re running 64-bit linux you should probably get the x64 binary from

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  6. pocoO SPAIN Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    well, ill try dropbox….but for now Im more or less workin with git to sinc my data…between 4 computers; i created a directory: “mkdir sincdata” in my server (linux with sshd in port 44) and i create a git repo: git init….then i put some files there….then i can clone like this: git clone ssh:// ….and my repo is cloned in every computer i want and i can git pull…and git push data from every computer.

    its working for me.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @pocoO: That works too. I use cvs for the same sort of thing for many of my documents but it does require a structured approach of sorts. I can’t tell you how many times I screwed myself over because I forgot to check in the files I worked on before I left home.

    With dropbox you don’t have to do anything. As soon as a file in the designated folder changes, it starts pushing out the updates to all the computers automatically. It just happens and you can forget it’s there until you need it. :)

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  8. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I guess I’ve been living under a rock for the last two months… This is awesome though, just what I need. And I’m glad you posted this solution, since I’m running Fluxbox on my laptop :)

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  9. claydoh UNITED STATES Konqueror Linux says:

    thanks for the tip!

    While I didn’t loose any data, I recently suffered from major hardware failure and having something such as dropbox would have made things easier

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  10. ST/op DENMARK Opera Linux says:

    Thanks for the tip, Luke. With a few adjustments, I just got Dropbox to work on my old “0$ laptop” running Puppy Linux! (using JWM).

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  11. doorknob60 UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I’m hoping they support other file managers eventually like PcmanFM (my personal choice), Thunar, and Dolphin. Oh well, for me I didn’t need very many dependencies for nautilus anyways (I use Arch and don’t have much, if any, other Gnome stuff installed, but only needed like 6 dependencies).

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  12. francis GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Just tested with Version 0.6.567, and the tray icon is working in KDE4.

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