Bittorrent Sync: A Viable Dropbox Replacement?


As much as I care about having open source software as much as possible, sometimes you find out that there’s no real good alternative for some of the proprietary software out there. Take Skype, for example. Everyone would like to have a Skype client on Pandora but it’s just not possible since it’s closed source. Dropbox is another example of an excellent application where no open source (and even closed source, for that matter) client is available for GNU/Linux ARM devices. Now since last week, we however have Bittorrent Sync. Not open source, but available for ARM Linux. Is it any good?

Well first let’s drop the bold claim: Bittorrent Sync is NOT a full replacement for Dropbox. There are several things that Dropbox does nowadays, such as providing “cloud” space, making several versions of your files available in case of an unfortunate mistake, enabling access to your data from any computer through their web interface, sharing and so on. Dropbox has grown into a full ecosystem of services and is not limited anymore to “folder syncing”.

This being said, the function of “folder syncing” between machines is probably its most useful aspect and so far very few alternatives have been able to replicate these functions well. With Bittorrent Sync comes at the right time since it’s an actionable way to replicate the same functionality with Bittorrent technology as an enabler. And the good thing is that it’s free, on top of that.

So why would you want to have this kind of functionality anyway, you might ask. Well I see several practical usage for it. For example…

  • Wireless transfer of files: No need to use your SD Card or plug your Pandora with a wire to your PC to transfer documents. It’s the ultimate convenience.
  • Development: if you program software for the Pandora usually (if you are not _wb_ ) you tend to use your PC to write code and then test it later on Pandora to see how it runs. With synchronization you can now test right as you modify your scripts/programs on your Pandora.
  • Ultimate sharing system: imagine you are on a trip and want to share the latest pictures you took with your camera. You insert the SD Card in the Pandora, sync a folder and share they key with your friends and family and they get the very same replicates in a matter of minutes!

So, there are tons of uses for such an application. Now, you probably want to know how to use it on Pandora?

First, I assume you installed it on PC (Linux one for example). You have the btsync executable file somewhere, you launch with a simple…


in the terminal and then you simply open your browser at:

http://youripaddress:8888/gui   #replace youripaddress by what you know...

and you get something like this:


On your Pandora, install the PND distributed in the repo, launch it and then you open your browser in the very same address. It’s easier since the launcher automatically copies the right address to open in your clipboard so you simply have to “paste” it in your browser address. You get about the same screen as in your browser above. you may need to unzoom a little to let all the buttons appear.

Now, what you have to, either on your Pandora or on your PC, add a folder.


Then, generate a key… (sorry but I need to hide this :))


and click “add” and there you have it: your folder is ready to be shared !

Now, on your other device you want to sync (let’s say your Pandora), you simply need to “add a folder” again, select the folder you want to be synced with the same contents, and instead of generating the key, just write down the same one that came from the previous generation step (on my PC in this case).

Give a few seconds/minutes depending on your connection, and you will then see on both machines that they are synced to each other. Here is what I see on my PC after entering the secret key on my Pandora:


And here you go. The best thing since sliced bread!

As a side note, if you need to kill the process of Bittorrent Sync on your Pandora, you simply need to restart the launcher and the menu will change and you will have the choice to say “no” to deactivate the process. It will take a few minutes, however, so do not worry if the process does not exit immediately.

So now you have a way to sync files from your Pandora to your PC or vice versa. This has huge potential and I hope you will find new and exciting ways to benefit from this added function! Plus, I would not be surprised to see soon online services providing “cloud space” together with Bittorrent Sync function so that you can access/transmit your content even when your PC is off.

So, who needs Dropbox now?

Happy syncing and sharing. Do not hesitate to drop your secret key in the comments if you have a folder (full of legal things, this goes without saying) to share with the community!

Thanks to cube48 for porting it on Pandora. Very much appreciated.

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3 Comments on "Bittorrent Sync: A Viable Dropbox Replacement?"

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Interesting. I wasn’t aware this wasn’t open source, being based on an open source protocol, but I suppose there’s no reason why it can’t be closed source (except that it makes it impossible for us to verify how secure it all is). And it would certainly be interesting to see what knows about our data, since they clearly must know something about the size and shape of it to make it accessible to anyone with the right key. Personally, for local network filesharing I just use scp. Works beautifully between my various devices (and is preinstalled in the Pandora… Read more »
Too bad its not open source as it would be very interessting to know how it shares data. It’s just my opinion but for coding wouldn’t sshfs be more effective because it gives the possibility to directly mount the remote source tree on the pandora (and it’s already present on the stock pandora image). In case of local sync, rsync is easier than bare scp and allows two-way sync or incremental backups (which cannot be performed by scp) Those options can also be used for online sharing if you grant access to a ssh server from the internet. Another alternative… Read more »