Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sharing files with a iPad/iPhone/iPod wirelessly

I have a Windows laptop that I mainly use for work and blogging, a PC at home that is configured to act as a HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer), an iPhone and an iPad. 

When I am at home, all these devices are connected to my local network via WIFI.  Some of my devices download files like eBooks, while others act as my eBook reader, the same thing happens with movies. so there is this need for me to easily share files amongst my devices and I dont want to connect my iPhone/iPad to the PC/laptop via USB - its just too much effort and I am sure I can find a better solution.


Cloud based file storage mediums like DropBox are available, which pretty much means that I can store my files on the internet and access it via any other devices, but I have a problems with this approach. Cloud based file storage mediums cost me bandwidth, and in South Africa, bandwidth is expensive (which is why I believe that South Africa will be slow adopters of cloud based solution – but that’s another topic for another blog).

If I want to copy my 1MB photograph taken from my iPhone to my laptop wirelessly, I will need to upload the file to my DropBox storage via the iPhone app.  This will cost me 1MB of bandwidth, I will then need to use another MB  of bandwidth to download the file to my laptop, I know this sounds petty, but do this for 10, 20 or 100 files, the bandwidth adds up and it is really unnecessary, especially since all my devices are connected to my local network so I should be able to do this without using the internet.

There are other disadvantages like slow speed, restrictions with the storage medium and this actual step of uploading or duplicating files just to make it available for sharing.  So the preferred alternative would be the ability to share files across my local network.



iDevice (iPhone/iPad/iPod) developers figured out how to transfer files from their iDevice over a WIFI network.  They have created apps like File Sharing (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/file-sharing/id300556365?mt=8), Air Sharing (http://itunes.apple.com/app/air-sharing/id289943355?mt=8) and Good Reader (http://itunes.apple.com/app/id306277111?mt=8)  just to name a few (there’s a lot out there).  They all work on the same principle.  They use WebDAV protocol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebDAV ) that makes it possible to access files on the iDevice via a URL.

WebDAV protocol are perfect for this purpose, it’s a standard set of rules and methods that makes it possible to edit and manage documents all via HTTP, it essentially makes the device on the network a readable and writable medium.

Having an iDevice app that uses WebDAV is a step in the right direction (I installed and love Good Reader) but more needs to be done for me to achieve a true file sharing environment across all my devices.

The biggest problem is that I can share files from my iDevice, but I cannot share files from my PC or laptop – now for me to get that right, i need to get my PC or Laptop to share files via WebDAV or FTP protocols (Good Reader allows you to access other shares on the network via WebDAV or FTP) – and that is a lot more complicated that it sounds – I tweaked around with my IIS settings, loosen my security configurations, installed all kinds of server type software on my PC/Laptop, read all kinds of articles on how Microsoft did a poor job in WebDAV support and just about gave up – I was unable to make my PC/Laptop files accessible to my iDevices.  Finally I found some a programme that provides a “User Friendly, personal FTP and WebDAV server”.

The programme is called neteK (http://netek.berlios.de/ ), its freeware but its incomplete, the FTP part is working, but the WebDAV part is not, I tried contacting the developer as I believe that there is a market for this product once the WebDAV component is working, but he is not replying to my emails and from what I can see, this product was last updated in 2006 – so it’s probably a dead product – but he made his source code available (http://developer.berlios.de/project/showfiles.php?group_id=6106)  - so if anyone wants to work on a product that provides a user friendly, personal FTP and WebDAV server – get a kickstart from the source code and work on a solution.  I believe that this problem I am experiencing with sharing files amongst my devices is a common problem and is rapidly becoming a big problem as more different types of devices are connected to the network and needs to talk to each other, so there is a market for this product.  Imagine how great this product will be if you can get it working for iOS, Android, XBox, PlayStation, Wii, BlackBerry, Windows, Linux, etc.


Good luck, When you get rich with this product, remember to mention my name :)

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