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Inside Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: AirDrop local file sharing

post #1 of 29
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Mac OS X 10.7 Lion introduces a new feature in the Finder named AirDrop, designed for easy file sharing between nearby systems.

AirDrop has nothing in common with DropBox, a cloud-based file sharing service more akin to iDisk. Instead, AirDrop allows users to discover nearby users and share files with them directly, without needing to configure a common WiFi network.

For users who are already on the same network, it's long been possible to set up File Sharing, exchange account information and then perform file transfers. However, this involves some relatively complex technical understanding that many users find confusing, despite Apple's efforts to simplify things.

The concept of infrastructure mode networking is similar to meeting people on Facebook, where everyone logs in and can exchange messages easily, even with new people. The problem with this kind of networking, however, is that it requires a sophisticated central entity managing the network, accounts, and all of your shared messages (the job FaceBook does).

If you don't have an established network, you're now in the position of being at a party in a room full of strangers. You'll need to approach people and exchange pleasantries in person, something you won't need the infrastructure of a system like FaceBook to do. Of course, to do this, you'll need to all speak the same language, you might need an introduction, and others will have to want to talk to you.

That type of "ad hoc" networking can already be done between systems using a protocol like Bluetooth, which can introduce two devices and support simple file transfers. Bluetooth is rather slow however, and involves a layer of security that involves a PIN exchange. WiFi is much faster, but users typically use it in "infrastructure" mode, which assumes that you have a central base station negotiating the network transaction for you (and, like Time Capsule, perhaps also providing a shared disk).

Lion's new AirDrop makes basic file exchange between nearby users as simple as Bluetooth, as fast as WiFi, and as easy as drag and drop, with layers of security and personalization that combine with Apple's easily understandable user interface to make a conceptually complex task easy to initiate even for non technical users.

Three similar solutions

There's already a couple emerging standards aiming to do what AirDrop does. The developers of Bluetooth (which functions like a wireless USB link) have released Bluetooth 3.0+HS, which speeds up Bluetooth file transfers by initiating a connection over Bluetooth and then switching to WiFi to actually send the data.

The developers behind WiFi (which is expressly designed to provide wireless networking rather than being intended to support wireless peripherals like Bluetooth) have codified WiFi Direct, a new protocol that allows a WiFi enabled device to act more like Bluetooth on the side: finding other devices, establishing a temporary secure link, and then supporting direct file transfers or printer connections, for example.

Apple's AirDrop isn't based on either protocol, but works similar to WiFi Direct. It allows Macs (and likely in the future, iOS devices) to discover nearby systems capable of AirDrop, negotiate a secure ad hoc connection via WiFi (even if both systems are already connected to different WiFi base stations), then presents a simple interface that depicts each discovered user, allowing for files to simply be dropped on an icon to begin a transfer. The receiving user only needs to accept the transfer. It's as simple as shaking hands with a stranger.

AirDrop vs Bonjour

Note that Apple's Bonjour technology (formerly called Rendezvous) does something different: it helps systems on the same local (infrastructure mode) network to advertise and discover available services (such as shared printers, iTunes or iPhoto libraries, or Apple File Server shares), without having to manually configure a centralized DNS to allow finding what's available.

AirDrop works a bit like Bonjour without an existing network, enabling discovery of non-networked systems available and willing to set up a temporary connection. AirDrop's technology is currently used solely for file transfers in the Finder, but it is potentially useful for a variety of tasks (including printing or trading contacts), especially on mobile devices.

It appears AirDrop acts like a Bonjour for SSID (WiFi network name) advertisements which other WiFi interfaces can browse and connect to, as opposed to the traditional Bonjour role of AppleTalk-like IP DNS advertisements on an established network.

How AirDrop works in the Lion Finder

Using AirDrop is simple: you click on the Finder Sidebar's AirDrop icon and it begins displaying all of the nearby systems prepared to AirDrop. While active, the Airdrop icon changes from a parachuting package into an animated radar sweep to let you know its actively looking for available nearby drop targets (below).

To show up in the Finder's AirDrop window, other nearby systems will need to be running Mac OS X Lion; using a supported WiFi interface (only fairly recent Macs do); and also have their Finder's AirDrop window open.



The fact that all parties must have AirDrop open to be visible to others prevents the potential for opportunistic spammers or malicious users to bombard everyone nearby with requests to download their files. You have to intentionally open up hailing frequencies before AirDrop will even put you on the radar of other nearby systems. When you're finished, simply closing the Finder's AirDrop window (or changing the active window to another Finder location) again removes your system from view by nearby users, returning the AirDrop icon to its static form (below).



Apple badges known users with their photos from your contacts, so you get an easy to use representation of who you're dealing with when multiple people are all performing AirDrop sessions at the same time.

While it certainly won't be impossible to attempt to exploit AirDrop file transfers, it will be much easier for even non-technical users to spot suspicious activity when setting up a file transfer. And there's no need for Bluetooth PIN codes, file sharing accounts, or other confusing steps. Just open a window and everyone you might want to interact with pops up.

AirDrop support

The biggest issue with AirDrop seems to be finding compatible hardware. It does not appear to be supported by Macs using Atheros WiFi interfaces, as AirDrop didn't show up on a Late 2006 MacBook Pro 2,2. It also didn't seem to work on a Early 2009 Mac mini 3,1 using Broadcom's "Airport Extreme (0x14E4, 0x90)" WiFi chip. Both models should be officially supported by Lion, both support 802.11n and both use Core 2 Duo CPUs.

AirDrop did show up on a mid 2010 Core i5 MacBook Pro 6,1 using a Broadcom "Airport Extreme (0x14E4, 0x93)" WiFi interface card similar but not identical to the two year old Mac mini. The newest Early 2001 MacBook Pro 8,1 with Sandy Bridge CPUs are unable to run the existing Lion Developer Preview, which came out before they were released.

It's possible Apple could issue new firmware that potentially could broaden the number of machines than can support AirDrop. Of course, what really matters is whether older WiFi chips have any potential to support the WiFi Direct-like ad hoc mode networking while also connected to another network.

Notably, machines earlier than Mid 2010 MacBook Pros are listed as supporting "802.11 draft n," as opposed to the post-draft status of the only machine we saw AirDrop working on.

Readers running Lion can report whether AirDrop shows up on their model, and AppleInsider will update this report. Machines that can run Lion but can't (currently) support the AirDrop feature simply lack an AirDrop Finder Sidebar icon, nor any option in Finder Preferences to turn it on or off (shown below).

AirDrop certainly won't work on machines without WiFi, but all modern Macs, even the Mac Pro, now include WiFi interfaces.

The "Air" name, similar to AirPlay and AirPrint, suggests Apple will also add AirDrop support to iOS devices as well, which would certainly benefit from an easy way to move files between themselves and desktop computers without resorting to using email attachments or the somewhat obtuse iTunes File Sharing feature.

post #2 of 29
Sounds promising, especially once it's implemented on iOS devices. Isn't this essentially what Bump does already?

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post #3 of 29
This may be exactly what I’ve been wanting to stream Keynote from the iPad and MBP to an AppleTV connected to a projector without having to set up an intermediary wireless router.
post #4 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


Readers running Lion can report whether AirDrop shows up on their model, and AppleInsider will update this report. Machines that can run Lion but can't (currently) support the AirDrop feature simply lack an AirDrop Finder Sidebar icon, nor any option in Finder Preferences to turn it on or off (shown below).

AirDrop works on my new MacBook Air, but not on my 2 yr old 24" iMac.
post #5 of 29
AirDrop works on my unibody MacBook!
post #6 of 29
At first I thought AirPlay sounded great for the home but now I think Apple screwed it up. They have made it way to complicated. A AP window has to be open first on both ends, bull. If I want to send a file to my son who's down stairs I don't want to have to go down stairs first to tell him to open up his AP window because I want to send him a file, then go back upstairs. We use Drop Copy in our home and it works great, even if some of the Macs are on Ethernet.My wife understands Drop Copy but she wont even try to understand AirPly. When I send her a file and a popup window show up saying a file just arrived she know to look in her Downloads folder for it, simple. WOW they really blow this one.
post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mretondo View Post

At first I thought AirPlay sounded great for the home but now I think Apple screwed it up. They have made it way to complicated. A AP window has to be open first on both ends, bull. If I want to send a file to my son who's down stairs I don't want to have to go down stairs first to tell him to open up his AP window because I want to send him a file, then go back upstairs. We use Drop Copy in our home and it works great, even if some of the Macs are on Ethernet.My wife understands Drop Copy but she wont even try to understand AirPly. When I send her a file and a popup window show up saying a file just arrived she know to look in her Downloads folder for it, simple. WOW they really blow this one.

Hmm good point. It's probably for security considerations, so that the transfer process is 100% intentional. Closing the connection is as easy as closing the window. It would be nice if you could ping someone a request to transfer, but if you're within Wi-Fi range you can probably just say, "hey i'm gonna send you this". \

Either way, this is a big improvement. Much more elegant then sending tons of email attachments, or even setting up file sharing. The photo ID thing makes it all the more elegant and simple.
post #8 of 29
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post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mretondo View Post

At first I thought AirPlay sounded great for the home but now I think Apple screwed it up. They have made it way to complicated. A AP window has to be open first on both ends, bull. If I want to send a file to my son who's down stairs I don't want to have to go down stairs first to tell him to open up his AP window because I want to send him a file, then go back upstairs. We use Drop Copy in our home and it works great, even if some of the Macs are on Ethernet.My wife understands Drop Copy but she wont even try to understand AirPly. When I send her a file and a popup window show up saying a file just arrived she know to look in her Downloads folder for it, simple. WOW they really blow this one.

This isn't designed to help you copy between computers you already have set up on your network with file sharing already configured. The OBVIOUS solution to your needs is simple file sharing.

AirDrop is designed to link up two machines where no network exits, such as a casual encounter between two business people at a conference, where there's no simple way to link up a common network and establish accounts and shares and all of that.
post #10 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimUSCA View Post

AirDrop works on my unibody MacBook!

There are several generations of unibody MacBooks:

Late 08 aluminum MB 5,1 - Unknown
Late 09 white plastic MB 6,1 - Unknown
Mid 10 white plastic MB 7,1 - Unknown

Or if you mean unibody MacBook Pro:

Late 08 MBP 5,1 - Unknown
Early 09 MBP 5,2 - Unknown
Mid 09 MPB 5,3/4/5 - Unknown
Mid 10 MPB 6,1/2 and 7,1 - reported working
Early 11 MPB 8,1/2/3 - too new for the Lion DR
post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mretondo View Post

At first I thought AirPlay sounded great for the home but now I think Apple screwed it up. They have made it way to complicated. A AP window has to be open first on both ends, bull. If I want to send a file to my son who's down stairs I don't want to have to go down stairs first to tell him to open up his AP window because I want to send him a file, then go back upstairs. We use Drop Copy in our home and it works great, even if some of the Macs are on Ethernet.My wife understands Drop Copy but she wont even try to understand AirPly. When I send her a file and a popup window show up saying a file just arrived she know to look in her Downloads folder for it, simple. WOW they really blow this one.

If it’s someone like family, on the same network as you, then AirDrop’s security isn’t needed. That situation, where you’re out of earshot with each other, is already solved without AirDrop:

1. Choose his computer in the FInder’s sidebar.
2. Drop the file into his Drop Box. He won’t be asked to accept it. (But if you put a script on his Drop Box, he can be notified automatically.)

OR

1. Choose his computer from iChat’s Bonjour list.
2. Drop the file into his window (he’ll be asked to accept).

Neither method requires him to open a window or app or anything. (Just keep Bonjour enabled in iChat, and/or keep File Sharing on.)

But AirDrop lets you easily reach someone whether they’re on your network or not. That NEEDS security, or you’ll end up in a coffee shop accidentally accepting who-knows-what from pranksters! Or people driving by your house! Asking both parties to open a window is simple: they’ll rarely be out of earshot of each other. (If they are, how are they going to connect anyway? Probably by being on the same network... see above.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post

...
It would be nice if you could ping someone a request to transfer, but if you're within Wi-Fi range you can probably just say, "hey i'm gonna send you this". \

Maybe iChat will gain “AirChat”—like Bonjour iChat, only ad hoc. Then you could text (or voice?) the person.
post #12 of 29
Airdrop is completely absent from my Finder (and the preferences window) on my Early 2008 15.4" Macbook Pro (MacBookPro 4,1; 2.5 GHz; 4GB RAM).

I wonder if there's a way to modify a plist somewhere to enable it, since Apple has a tendency to disable features on models that do actually support them by saying they're incompatible.
post #13 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mretondo View Post

At first I thought AirPlay sounded great for the home but now I think Apple screwed it up. They have made it way to complicated. A AP window has to be open first on both ends, bull. If I want to send a file to my son who's down stairs I don't want to have to go down stairs first to tell him to open up his AP window because I want to send him a file, then go back upstairs. We use Drop Copy in our home and it works great, even if some of the Macs are on Ethernet.My wife understands Drop Copy but she wont even try to understand AirPly. When I send her a file and a popup window show up saying a file just arrived she know to look in her Downloads folder for it, simple. WOW they really blow this one.

Well, if you can send a file to your son without his express permission, they you can send it to your neighbor as well, and vice versa.

We already have public folders in infrastructure networking and sharing, etc. Airdrop is one more service... but both parties have to be aware, because you don't want a stranger sending you god knows what.
2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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post #14 of 29
Am I right in seeing that the icons in Finders' preferences retain color but Finder windows will become all grey, like iTunes 10?

Sure hope not; I don't like all these grey icons in iTunes 10 at all.

Cheers,
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post #15 of 29
Imagine air dropping over a WAN..
post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Logisticaldron View Post

This may be exactly what Ive been wanting to stream Keynote from the iPad and MBP to an AppleTV connected to a projector without having to set up an intermediary wireless router.

you can do that now with airplay or homesharing. airdrop is more file transfer than file streaming.
post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRR View Post

Imagine air dropping over a WAN..

What are you on about? You appear to have missed AirDrop's intent.
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post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Archos View Post

There are several generations of unibody MacBooks:

Late 08 aluminum MB 5,1 - Unknown
Late 09 white plastic MB 6,1 - Unknown
Mid 10 white plastic MB 7,1 - Unknown

Or if you mean unibody MacBook Pro:

Late 08 MBP 5,1 - Unknown
Early 09 MBP 5,2 - Unknown
Mid 09 MPB 5,3/4/5 - Unknown
Mid 10 MPB 6,1/2 and 7,1 - reported working
Early 11 MPB 8,1/2/3 - too new for the Lion DR

Late 2008 aluminum.
post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Postulant View Post

AirDrop works on my new MacBook Air, but not on my 2 yr old 24" iMac.

Do you have LION installed on both machines and the Airdrop icon selected in both Finders? And file sharing enabled on both machines, via System Preferences > Sharing.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #20 of 29
* don't like the name changes in the sidebar from "Places" to Favorites". Makes no sense, we go to places in the file system not favorites, maybe favorite places but that complicates things, something M$ would do for the sake of change.

* don't like the rearrangement of "Devices" from the top of the sidebar to the bottom. Again, this doesn't follow any logic based on the hierarchy of hardware and is just a silly complication of changes for the sake of it. This can't be changed in Apple's stupid fsck'n Finder. This is exactly like Windows 7 Explorer and which also cannot be rearranged in the GUI. What is this Apple, doing the M$ copycat for nothing other than to appease the switchers?

* Finder needs a fsck'n drop stack (shelf) and a dual pane mode to set two different directories up either vertically or horizontally.
post #21 of 29
AirDrop sounds identical to DropCopy which we have used extensively in this household for some time. It has completely simplified and taken the pain out of file transfers between Macs and iOS devices. Drag to the drop spot, drop on the name. It uses Bonjour so no wasting time with credentials. Fast file transfer with iPad and iPhone are a dream. If you don't know about DropCopy, it's free http://10base-t.com/macintosh-software/dropcopy/.
post #22 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRR View Post

Imagine air dropping over a WAN..

that doesn't make sense. AirDrop does not use a network infrastructure, meaning it does not utilize a LAN or WAN. it only works between Macs that are physically close to one another (within wifi range).
post #23 of 29
Well at least they didn't grey out the preferences pane too, as in itunes, or they haven't yet (oh dear), what's with apple these days and interfaces of grey from the mid 80s? As with the orientation lock, I foresee much annoyance for users, and apple reverting this one, or giving an option to, at least I hope they do...
post #24 of 29
Check your images. You missed one. You NDA violator you.
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Targon View Post

* don't like the name changes in the sidebar from "Places" to Favorites". Makes no sense, we go to places in the file system not favorites, maybe favorite places but that complicates things, something M$ would do for the sake of change.

* don't like the rearrangement of "Devices" from the top of the sidebar to the bottom. Again, this doesn't follow any logic based on the hierarchy of hardware and is just a silly complication of changes for the sake of it. This can't be changed in Apple's stupid fsck'n Finder. This is exactly like Windows 7 Explorer and which also cannot be rearranged in the GUI. What is this Apple, doing the M$ copycat for nothing other than to appease the switchers?

* Finder needs a fsck'n drop stack (shelf) and a dual pane mode to set two different directories up either vertically or horizontally.

Have you tried TotalFinder? I think it will meet most of your needs. It also allows supports tabs in finder windows and allows you to bring up a FinderVisor with a key-command. Very nifty. I use it every day. http://totalfinder.binaryage.com/
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post #26 of 29
Quote:
Readers running Lion can report whether AirDrop shows up on their model, and AppleInsider will update this report. Machines that can run Lion but can't (currently) support the AirDrop feature simply lack an AirDrop Finder Sidebar icon, nor any option in Finder Preferences to turn it on or off.


AirDrop is present on Late 2009 quad-core iMacs!


post #27 of 29
In the Mac Pro 1,1 (2006) is not present Airdrop.
post #28 of 29
Lion installed

MacBook early 2008 Intel Core 2 Duo

AirDrop doesn't appear on the Finder sidebar

Only other difference with my iMac is that I can't get swipes to page through Safari pages or back to the Widget page.

Hugely impressed with Lion overall
post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mad102190 View Post

Airdrop is completely absent from my Finder (and the preferences window) on my Early 2008 15.4" Macbook Pro (MacBookPro 4,1; 2.5 GHz; 4GB RAM).

I wonder if there's a way to modify a plist somewhere to enable it, since Apple has a tendency to disable features on models that do actually support them by saying they're incompatible.

Me too. Early 2008 MacBook Pro is not showing AirDrop in Finder.
Model NametMacBook Pro
Model IdentifiertMacBookPro4,1
Processor NametIntel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speedt2.5 GHz
Number of Processorst1
Total Number of Corest2
L2 Cachet6 MB
Memoryt4 GB
Bus Speedt800 MHz
Boot ROM VersiontMBP41.00C1.B03

en1:
Card TypetAirPort Extreme (0x14E4, 0x8C)
Firmware VersiontBroadcom BCM43xx 1.0 (5.10.131.36.11)
Supported PHY Modest802.11 a/b/g/n
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