Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Online backup services

Starting sometime mid-year in 2011, I began having more ‘stuff’ to do than even my eidetic memory could help with. It’s not that I forgot things, per se, but the ability to mentally recall and prioritize work, family, personal and other tasks finally required some external assistance and I resolved to find a GTD system by the end of January.

Being an OS X user, there are great choices out there (both of those have iOS sister-apps, too). However, I’m not just an OS X user. As I was saying to @myrcurial (and even @reillyusa) the other day, I dislike being locked in to proprietary solutions. Plus, the $120 price tag for OmniFocus (OS X + iPad) seemed like a king’s ransom, especially since I am also an Android user (OmniFocus only has an iOS app) and pay for both Dropbox and various virtual hosts. Believing that I still have some usable skills left, I decided to — as @hatlessec characterized my solution — cobble something together on my own.

Once upon a time, I did maintain a .plan file (when I had sysadmin duties), but really doubted the efficacy of it and finger in the age of the modern web. The thought of machinating SQLite databases, parsing XML files or even digesting bits of JSON seemed overkill for my purposes. Searching through my Evernote clippings, my memory was drawn back to one of my favorite sites, Lifehacker, which has regular GTD coverage. After re-poking around a bit, I decided to settle on @ginatrapani’s @todotxtapps for meeting the following requirements (in order):

  • It uses a plain text file with a simple structure – (no exposit necessary…the link is a quick read and the format will become second nature after a glance)
  • It is Free (mostly) – mobile apps are ~$2.00USD each and if you need more than free Dropbox hosting and want a web interface, there are potential hosting costs. If you count your setup time as money, then add that in, too.
  • It runs on OS X, BSD, Windows & Linux – no platform lock-in
  • It has a thriving community – without being backed by a vendor (like the really #spiffy @omnigroup), a strong developer & user community is extremely important to ensure the longevity of the codebase. Todo.txt has very passionate developers and users who are very active on all fronts.
  • It is very extensible & integrable – I used @alfredapps to give me a quick OS X “GUI CLI” to the commands. I built an Alfred keyword for my most used Todo.txt functions along with a generic one to bring up vim in a window for a free-form edit. Alfred’s shell-commands also give me @growlmac integration (so I get some feedback after working with tasks).

    I also integrated it with @geektool. I won’t steal the thunder from other GeekTool/Todo.txt integration posts (like this one). The GeekTool integration puts my todo’s right in front of me all the time on all my desktops.

    By storing my todo directory in @dropbox, it also makes syncing to my web site and mobile devices a snap.

    On my server, I have a simple cron job setup to e-mail me my todo’s at the beginning of the day (again, so it’s in front of me wherever I look).

  • It runs on iOS AND Android – again, no platform lock-in
  • There’s an optional web interface – the one I linked to (there are others) is far from ideal, but it was quick to setup and has no overt security issues. Properly protected behind nginx or apache, you should have no issues if you need to have a web version handy.

So, while the setup is a bit more than just downloading two commercial apps, it has many other benefits and isn’t too much more work if you already have some of the other pieces in place. If you want more info on the Alfred scripts or any other setup component, drop me a note in the comments.

While I’ve read about many GTD solutions and seen many user-stories of how they met their GTD needs, I’d be interested in what tools you use to ‘get things done’…

If you are concerned about the Dropbox design flaw exposed by the dbClone attack, then have we got a link for you!

The intrepid DB devs have tossed up a forum release which purports to fix all the thorny security issues. You can no longer just copy a config file to a separate machine to clone a filesystem and the file itself is now also encrypted. (Forum builds do not automagically download like standard Dropbox updates)

Given the fact that Dropbox did not prompt me for any credentials when I started the new version, I’m still a bit skeptical that it has truly fixed the problem. Given my schedule today, I doubt I’ll have time to poke at it before someone else does, but the thoroughness of this fix does need to be independently validated. The local Dropbox client has to be getting the encryption key/passphrase from *somewhere*, and if it’s not prompting me on start, then it’s stored online or locally and that’s a recipe for another hack.

There is nothing overt in the application bundle (looking on OS X) or quickly discernable from a dump of a few of the app’s .pyc files. Granted, a bit of obfuscation will stop the current hack and dissuade some other sophomoric attempts, but I can almost guarantee that the passphrase (or the algorithm one needs to discern the passphrase) will be found by folks.

The new build replaces your local configuration file with a new, encrypted one (now named config.dbx). I didn’t see signs of either SQLiteEncrypt, SEE, SQLCipher or SQLiteCrypt but haven’t had time to dig more thoroughly. It’s completely possible the Dropbox devs just built an encryption layer over the Dropbox calls themselves (which is not a difficult task).

Please note that forum builds are not necessarily stable and that this is a pretty major architecture change. I had no issues on OS X, but I suspect that any micro-errors in your SQLite config.db may cause some heartache if you do attempt the upgrade. Best to wait for a full production release if you do not have your Dropbox backed up somewhere.

Spent some time today updating the missing bits of the OS X version of the Dropbox cloner I uploaded last night. You can just grab the executable or grab the whole project from the github repository.

The app can now backup/restore of local config, clone dropbox configs to a URL/file and also impersonate a captured Dropbox config.

Use it all at your own risk. As stated in the original post, all comments, bugs, additions, fixes etc. are welcome either here or at github.


  • Originally meant to improve the security of jailbroken iOS devices, antid0te is now also available for OS X Snow Leopard thanks to the efforts of Stefan Esser. Since Apple engineers did not see fit to load the dynamic linker – dyld – at a random base address, they left a fairly significant hole that even Windows engineers managed to cover up. Stefan provide step-by-step instructions for rebasing your dyld install to give your Mac an even more increased security posture. Antid0te for Mac OS X Snow Leopard []
  • Travis Goodspeed took his badge from The Next Hope conference and turned it into a promiscuous sniffer for the Microsoft Comfort Desktop 5000 and similar 2.4GHz wireless keyboards. This is a good reminder of how oblivious folks can be to convenience technologies they use everyday. It also speaks to just how easy it is to hack consumer-oriented hardware. Sniffing RF hardware communication packets[Travis Goodspeed’s Blog]

Startups/Access Management

  • This is an outstanding tutorial on how to manage access permissions to Dropbox folders. I can only hope to get my enterprise data owners to be so careful of how they dole out access to critical data. HOWTO use Dropbox to organize your startup’s documents [RevenueLoan blog]