Fixing dropbox “conflicted copy” problems

I usually avoid proprietary cloud services because of freedom, privacy and vendor lock-in concerns. In addition, there are some excellent libre (and hosted) services such as WordPress, Wikipedia and OpenShift which don’t have the above problems. Thirdly, there are every day Free Software tools such as Fedora GNU/Linux, Libreoffice, and git-annex-assistant which make my computing much more powerful. Finally, there are some hosted services that I use that don’t lock me in because I use them as push-only mirrors, and I only interact with them using Free Software tools. The two examples are GitHub and Dropbox.

Today, Dropbox bit me. Here’s how I saved my data.

Dropbox integrates with GNOME‘s nautilus to sync your data to their proprietary cloud hosting. I periodically run the dropbox client to sync any changes to my public files up to their servers. Today, the client decided that some of my newer files were older than the stored server-side versions, and promptly over-wrote my newer versions.

Thankfully I have real backups, and, to be fair, Dropbox actually renamed my newer files instead of blatantly clobbering them. My filesystem now looks like this:

$ tree files/
|-- bar
|-- baz
|   |-- file1
|   |-- file1\ (james's\ conflicted\ copy\ 2014-09-29)
|   |-- file2\ (james's\ conflicted\ copy\ 2014-09-29).sh
|   `--
`-- foo

You’ll note that my previously clean file system now has the “conflicted copy” versions everywhere. These are the good versions, whereas in the example above file1 and are the older unwanted versions.

I spent some time with find and diff convincing myself that this was true, and eventually I wrote a script. The script looks through the current working directory for “conflicted copy” matches, saves the unwanted versions (just in case) and then clobbers them with the good “conflicted” version.

Please look through, edit, and understand this script before running it. It might not be what you want, and it was designed to only work for me. It is available as a gist, and below in the body of this article.

$ cat 

# XXX: use at your own risk - do not run without understanding this first!
exit 1

# safety directory

# TODO: detect or pick manually...

mkdir -p "$BACKUP"
find . -path "*(*'s conflicted copy [0-9][0-9][0-9][0-9]-[0-9][0-9]-[0-9][0-9]*" -print0 | while read -d $'' -r file; do
    printf 'Found: %s\n' "$file"

    # TODO: detect or pick manually...

    STRING=" (${NAME}'s conflicted copy ${DATE})"
    #echo $STRING
    RESULT=`echo "$file" | sed "s/$STRING//"`
    #echo $RESULT

    SAVE="$BACKUP"`dirname "$RESULT"`
    #echo $SAVE
    mkdir -p "$SAVE"
    cp "$RESULT" "$SAVE"
    mv "$file" "$RESULT"


You can thank bash for saving your data. Stop bashing it and read this article instead.

Happy hacking,



One minute hacks: the nautilus scripts folder

Master SDN hacker Flavio sent me some tunes. They were sitting on my desktop in a folder:

$ ls ~/Desktop/

I wanted to listen them while hacking, but what was the easiest way…? I wanted to use the nautilus file browser to select which folder to play, and the totem music/video player to do the playing.

Drop a file named totem into:


with the contents:

# o hai from purpleidea
exec totem -- "$@"

and make it executable with:

$ chmod u+x ~/.local/share/nautilus/scripts/totem

Now right-click on that music folder in nautilus, and you should see a Scripts menu. In it there will be a totem menu item. Clicking on it should load up all the contents in totem and you’ll be rocking out in no time. You can also run scripts with a selection of various files.

Here’s a screenshot:

nautilus is pretty smart and lets you know that this folder is special

nautilus is pretty smart and even lets you know that this folder is special

I wrote this to demonstrate a cute nautilus hack. Hopefully you’ll use this idea to extend this feature for something even more useful.

Happy hacking,



running your file manager from a terminal

I do a lot of my work in a terminal. For the unfamiliar, this might seem strange, however once you’re comfortable with your shell, this is the best place to be. I don’t restrict myself to it though. I often want to spawn a file manager, or a graphical text editor. When I run nautilus, I usually see something like this:

james@computer:~/some/awesome/directory$ nautilus .
Initializing nautilus-open-terminal extension
Shutting down nautilus-open-terminal extension

This is useful, because I can open a file browser right where I want it, it’s annoying, because nautilus runs in that terminal until I close it. (This doesn’t happen if the nautilus process is always running, but since GNOME 3, it isn’t.)

My solution is a short bash script that runs nautilus, and leaves your terminal alone. I named my script nautilus, and placed it inside my ~/bin/. Here is the script:

# run nautilus from a terminal, without being attached to it; similar to nohup
# use the full path of nautilus to avoid it calling itself (recursion!)
{ `/usr/bin/nautilus "$@" &> /dev/null`; } &

I hope this is useful for you too. Feel free to do the same for gedit, nemo, and any other app which you often find convenient to run from the terminal. You can generalize this by leaving out the nautilus program:

if [ "$1" == "" ]; then
        echo "usage: ./"`basename $0`"  (to run a command nohup style)"
        exit 1
# do a nohup bash style according to:
{ `"$@" &> /dev/null`; } &

I name the above script, and it helps me out from time to time, when I don’t want to touch my mouse.

In case you haven’t heard about it, there’s also an open-terminal extension for nautilus and nemo which lets you get to a terminal, from your file manager. A quick internet search should help you install it.

If you found this information useful, please let me know, and as always,

Happy hacking,


PS: If you plan to do this for gedit, you probably want to preserve stdin, so that you can still pipe things in. To do this, you’ll probably want:

{ `/usr/bin/gedit "$@" &> /dev/null`; } < /dev/stdin &    # accept stdin too!

Picking up the pieces after a Fedora 18 install

I love GNOME and Fedora, but “upgrading” from Fedora 17 to 18 did not go well for me. I recommend you wait until either these are all fixed, or Fedora 19+ suits your needs. Here are a list of problems I had, and some workarounds. Hopefully proper patches to these bugs will get merged quickly, so that you don’t need to use these fixes.

Problem: Boot fails after upgrade from Fedora 17 to Fedora 18. I used the new “fedup” method.

Workaround: I did a fresh install. Make sure you have backups first, of course. I didn’t feel like spending a lot of time debugging why it broke.

Problem: The <Backspace> key no longer goes “up” in nautilus. I hope this wasn’t a “feature removal”.

Workaround: Add:

(gtk_accel_path "<Actions>/ShellActions/Up" "BackSpace")

to your: ~/.config/nautilus/accels and restart nautilus of course.

Problem: Split view (extra pane) functionality is missing in nautilus 3.6

Workaround: The GNOME developers plan to eventually replace this in a similar form. Until then, you can install the nemo file manager, which is a fork of nautilus 3.4 and is packaged in Fedora 18. (yum install nemo nemo-open-terminal)

Problem: GNOME Shell background is entirely black in overview mode.

Workaround: Using gnome-tweak-tool, under the “Desktop” section, set “Have file manager handle the desktop“, to “OFF“. Unfortunately, this disables viewing of files on your desktop. This wasn’t a problem in Fedora 17.

Problem: Restarting the X server with the familiar Control-Alt-Backspace, can’t be enabled in the keyboard shortcuts menu as it used to.

Workaround: This option is now hidden in the gnome-tweak-tool under typing: terminate.

I hope this scratches your itches!

Happy hacking,