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Some equipment at rLab -- such as the laser cutter and 3D printers -- make use of files that you'll have made or designed at home. Bringing them with you on a USB stick or SD card is convenient but, should you need or wish to, you can use rLab's Dropbox account to work with and transfer files, or to make files available to another member. rLab's Dropbox address is dropbox@rlab.org.uk

What is Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud file storage and transfer service that has Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile clients. The free Basic account gives 2GB space, and the paid Plus account gives 2TB space (see their Individual comparison page for more info). The Basic account is more than enough for anything you're likely to do in the hackspace.

Setting up Dropbox for use at rLab

You will create a folder in your Dropbox that will be visible on all the rLab computers. So you first need to choose, whether you:

  1. Will place files in it at home to download at rLab (read-only)
  2. Want to be able to upload/edit/save and download files to/from that folder (read/write).

Every computer at rLab with Dropbox installed will have that access to your folder, so the difference is important to understand. Note also that a read-only folder will not allow you to save any changes/edits, but it will also ensure that your Dropbox doesn't get any files you weren't expecting.

Once you have a Dropbox account (and optionally installed a client on your computer/device):

  • Create a folder with a name like rLab Dropbox (<YourName>), e.g. rLab Dropbox (JoeB), somewhere in your Dropbox. Ensure your name is in the folder name, as others will have similar folders.
  • Share your folder with rLab one of the following ways:
    • Dropbox website (mobile behaves similarly):
      • Click Files > New Shared Folder, select "I'd like to share an existing folder" and select the folder from the list.
    • Windows desktop (Mac and Linux behave similarly):
      • Navigate to the folder under your Dropbox section with Windows Explorer, or click the Dropbox tray icon and click the "Open dropbox folder" icon and navigate to the folder.
      • Right-click the folder and click "Share..." (has Dropbox icon next to it) from the context menu.
    • And then for either of the above methods:
      • In the "To:" field enter dropbox@rlab.org.uk and select "Can edit" (read/write) or "Can view" (read-only) from the dropdown to the right.
      • Optionally enter a short message into the message box, e.g. "Read-only Dropbox share for Joe Bloggs."
      • Click Share.

On desktops, the normal Dropbox folder icon (green tick) will change to shared Dropbox folder (green tick and head portraits). On mobile clients, the regular blue folder icon will add head portraits.

Using Dropbox at rLab

On any machine with Dropbox installed, either use Windows Explorer or click the Dropbox tray item > "Open dropbox folder" icon to navigate to the Dropbox folders. Your shared folder and whatever you've copied in there should appear.

If you shared it as...

  • "Can view": You/anyone at rLab can open its files in any software or copy them elsewhere, but will not be able save any changes, move or delete the contents.
  • "Can edit": You/anyone at rLab can open its files in any software, copy them elsewhere, save any changes, move or delete the contents.

Lastly, any changes you made to the shared folder's contents from your Dropbox account will be synchronised with the copies at rLab and, if read/write, any changes made at rLab will be synchronised in your Dropbox account. Remember.... Nothing shared onto the rLab computers can be considered private or safe! So take backups, and don't share things that need to stay private

Unsharing a Dropbox folder

The unsharing process is similar to the sharing process:

  • Desktops: Select "Share..." on the folder from the context menu, and note the rLab account in the permissions list. Click the drop-down next to it and select Remove.
  • Mobile (examples tested using Android 9, iPadOS 13.3, and current versions of Dropbox mobile as of January 2020):
    • Android: Select the options next to the folder, tap Share > "Manage access", tap "x members" to expand the list, tap "Reading Hackspace", and tap the Remove Member button.
    • iOS: Select the options next to the folder, tap "Manage access", tap the arrow to expand the member list, tap "Reading Hackspace", and tap the Remove Access button.

You can also use the above steps to adjust the permissions on the folder. For example, you may want to keep it "Can view" normally but change it to "Can edit" for a specific task, and then change it back again. Or vice-versa.