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Apple to use background file conflict manager and versioning in iCloud

post #1 of 17
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Unlike its current MobileMe service, Apple's iCloud will seamlessly resolve file conflicts that occur between devices, while backing up each version of the file, one insider says.

During an appearance on The Talk Show partially transcribed by MacStories, John Gruber said that the server-side of iCloud will "make a decision and it will decide which one is the best," when faced with a conflict between files.

"That is what [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs means when he says The Truth is in the Cloud. iTunes will decide which one is right and thats it. iCloud will push that right one to any device that has this account that has a different version," he continued.

The decision would reportedly happen behind the scenes without needing to prompt the user. Currently, file differences detected by the company's MobileMe service prompt a dialog box asking users to manually resolve the conflict.

However, if the automatically selected version is not the right one, iCloud will have the alternate versions stored, Gruber added. "There will be some sort of interface like go and look at your contacts. There will be some sort of way to say show me previous versions and let me pick the one that is right. You pick it and push it back up into the cloud and tell it thats the truth and Apple will push it out," he said.

The feature appears to be similar to Versions in the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion betas. Versions records changes to a document along with time stamps, allowing users to go back to recover older revisions.



When asked whether he knows about iCloud's versioning system or it's "just a theory," Gruber responded, "I know this," and went on to speculate that iBooks is an example of the feature. iBooks is able to automatically resolve differences in a user's "read state" or "current page state" between devices without presenting a dialog.

Apple took the wraps off its long-awaited iCloud service last week at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The free service is scheduled to launch this fall alongside iOS 5.
post #2 of 17
If iCloud 'just works' as promised - it is shaping up to be the new killer app. The more we learn the more impressive and 'deeper' it becomes.
post #3 of 17
It's a good approach. A lot of time when a dialog pops up (any dialog) people just click it away ("Stop bothering me! I'm trying to get something done."). So sync-time dialogs are no good.

But if you wait until error-time, then the "something" the person is trying to do *is* fix the error, so your dialog is no longer bothering them but enabling them.
post #4 of 17
I absolutely understand the problem. I like many hate when that conflict alert comes up. BUT, do I want the cloud to decide for me? I really want to know the criteria it will use to decide.

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post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by techno View Post

I absolutely understand the problem. I like many hate when that conflict alert comes up. BUT, do I want the cloud to decide for me? I really want to know the criteria it will use to decide.

Well, it means instead of hourly etc. iCloud will sync immediately as it currently doing on native iOS apps so it will always have the latest version or 'state'. Your frustration and many others most likely stemmed from delayed adjustments hence the inevitable conflicts.
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

However, if the automatically selected version is not the right one, iCloud will have the alternate versions stored,

That is quite interesting. I wonder if iCloud will have a similar storage algorithm to that of Versions:

"And it manages the version history of a document, keeping hourly versions for a day, daily versions for a month, and weekly versions for all previous months."

Meaningyou can change the truth within certain restrictions depending on when you decide to change what the truth is. I am just speculating here. :-)

Nullis in verba -- "on the word of no one"

 

 

 

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Nullis in verba -- "on the word of no one"

 

 

 

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post #7 of 17
Nice! Hated those resolve conflict dialogue boxes.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by techno View Post

I absolutely understand the problem. I like many hate when that conflict alert comes up. BUT, do I want the cloud to decide for me? I really want to know the criteria it will use to decide.

I totally agree!!!!!!!
post #9 of 17
Glad to hear about versioning. Notes in MobileMe has had a nasty habit of deleting a note without my approval because it got confused by which one is newer. I hope this versioning will be allowed on the devices within the apps, not just through a web portal.
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post #10 of 17
This is one of the most overlooked features of Dropbox. It contributes a significant amount to the usability.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

This is one of the most overlooked features of Dropbox. It contributes a significant amount to the usability.

I agree. That and the systemwide delta updates so you're not pointlessly wasting your bandwidth and time uploading files that are already maintained on their servers.
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post #12 of 17
Err, this only half-correctly explains how it works but I can't say anything else. Developers are supposed to respect their NDAs. ^^;
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Gruber responded, "I know this," and went on to speculate that iBooks is an example of the feature. iBooks is able to automatically resolve differences in a user's "read state" or "current page state" between devices without presenting a dialog.

Determining where you left off based on read times and page position doesn't seem hard.

Syncing conflicting contacts can be error-prone, but when you have near-instantaneous and automatic syncing, I think the likelihood of problems will go down to very minimal, because when you go to modify a contact, any previous modification on another machine should be already automatically synced. A complicating factor might be the wifi-only devices, if you don't get them connected to the internet on a regular basis.

I think this new system is better by a long shot. In the event that it chose the wrong way, you should still have a backup. I've been thinking in the past year or so that a lot of hassles with computers could be undone by reducing the number of non-reversible changes. For example, a "save over existing file" dialog can be eliminated by always having an available undo backed up. Any occasional hassle of having to go undo it is more than paid for by greatly reducing the number of times the computer asks me whether I'm sure I want to do that action.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Determining where you left off based on read times and page position doesn't seem hard.

Syncing conflicting contacts can be error-prone, but when you have near-instantaneous and automatic syncing, I think the likelihood of problems will go down to very minimal, because when you go to modify a contact, any previous modification on another machine should be already automatically synced. A complicating factor might be the wifi-only devices, if you don't get them connected to the internet on a regular basis.

I think this new system is better by a long shot. In the event that it chose the wrong way, you should still have a backup. I've been thinking in the past year or so that a lot of hassles with computers could be undone by reducing the number of non-reversible changes. For example, a "save over existing file" dialog can be eliminated by always having an available undo backed up. Any occasional hassle of having to go undo it is more than paid for by greatly reducing the number of times the computer asks me whether I'm sure I want to do that action.

That is exactly what I've used Dropbox for with school. I would just back up to Dropbox on the odd occasion I made a grave error and deleted something I shouldn't I know I had upt to 30 days of versions to pull from. I also used it in case my Mac was broken or stolen but my only issues were related to user error.
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Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Determining where you left off based on read times and page position doesn't seem hard.

Syncing conflicting contacts can be error-prone, but when you have near-instantaneous and automatic syncing, I think the likelihood of problems will go down to very minimal, because when you go to modify a contact, any previous modification on another machine should be already automatically synced. A complicating factor might be the wifi-only devices, if you don't get them connected to the internet on a regular basis.

iBooks bookmark/place syncing isn't perfect -- sometimes, if you aren't connected on one device and read ahead there, then pick up another device and do something in iBooks there, then go back to the first device connected, it will sync you to the place on the second device, which is behind where you really were on the first device, and not where you really want to be. It's likely timestamp based, which is probably how document syncing will work, and it's not really possible for a system like this to 100% decide what's "right" (how could iBooks know that you didn't want to be in the last place you were) so the ability to pick another version should help resolve any "wrong version" issues. (Maybe iBooks could add a "placemark history" to resolve those problems -- a history over time of the "last place" you left off reading.) What would be really nice would be some sort of merge feature, but that could be problematic for non-text documents.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Glad to hear about versioning. Notes in MobileMe has had a nasty habit of deleting a note without my approval because it got confused by which one is newer. I hope this versioning will be allowed on the devices within the apps, not just through a web portal.

I agree fully; if you can version within iWork apps on your iOS device that would be great. The screendump looks like it is taken from a desktop as over 2/3 of the screen is dedicated to a 'TimeMachine wallpaper'.

Of course, no one knows for sure right now as iCloud is not available yet. Knowing Apple, they'll build upon a feature over time. With MobileMe going away in 2012 they'll probably add features to iCloud before MM gets shut down.
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post #17 of 17
I did enterprise sync (synchronizing subsets of databases for "mobile" apps back in the 90s when mobile meant untethered laptop).

Sync and conflict resolution are really hard and customers generally don't understand the complexities and compromises involved.

I hope Apple take the time and effort on this to get it right when working with end-users' data... if it were easy, Microsoft would already be doing it by now.
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