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This morning, via email from Dropbox, I received notification that the version of Dropbox I am running on Ubuntu 14.04LTS will be retired next week and to update to the latest version. The email takes you to this page on their website:

enter image description here

Dropbox was initially installed using the Ubuntu Software Centre.

For the inexperienced user, is it best/easier to remove the package from within the USC and then re-install or is there a more elegant way of obtaining the update, for example using sudo apt-get update dropbox ?

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Some general advice first:

For the inexperienced user, is it best/easier to remove the package from within the USC and then re-install or is there a more elegant way of obtaining the update, for example using sudo apt-get update dropbox ?

For the inexperienced user, it is absolutely best and easier, by a long stretch, to not install any packages manually. Installing a .deb package manually means that you will not receive any more automatic updates to that package, since it was not installed via any repositories known to your system. This means you will have to keep updating that package yourself, e.g., regularly going to that Downloads page and downloading the newest version. Additionally, the packages available there have not undergone any quality checks by Ubuntu, and so compatibility with your system is not necessarily guaranteed. Worst case, you may end up with some weird unresolvable dependencies.

So yes, there is a more elegant way of obtaining the update: sit back and wait.

The newest version of the Dropbox client will certainly be added to the Ubuntu repositories soon enough. If the Dropbox client available in the repositories did not work any longer with the current Dropbox servers, this would be a problem that would not affect only you, but thousands of other Ubuntu users as well. And so, it would be resolved quickly.

To sum up, don't try to fix a working system.

Concerning installation of the Dropbox client:

After having done a bit of research, it seems that there are at least three possibilities how to install (i.e., how you could have previously installed) the Dropbox client. Let's go through them:

1. Installing the package nautilus-dropbox from multiverse

The name of the package may be slightly confusing. It is the one package in the official repositories that contains the actual, proprietary Dropbox client itself. That is, when you install this package, it will automatically download the proprietary Dropbox client from the Dropbox website and install it (to /usr/bin/dropbox). Yes, it does also contain an extension to integrate the Dropbox client with Nautilus, Ubuntu's standard file manager (/usr/lib/nautilus/extensions-3.0/libnautilus-dropbox.so), whence the package's name.

Since the package contains non-free, proprietary software, it is contained in the multiverse repository.

For all the reasons I mentioned under "Some general advice", this is the one method I absolutely recommend to install the Dropbox client, particularly so for Ubuntu novices. It will be managed by the package manager, it's in the official repos, you'll be fine. The Ubuntu Team will take care of that package working for you.

To install this package, all you need to do is:

sudo apt-get install nautilus-dropbox

To remove it again:

sudo apt-get remove nautilus-dropbox

2. Installing the package dropbox from Dropbox's 3rd party repository

Dropbox manages its own repository that you can add to your list of package repositories, and install the Dropbox client from. See How do I add or remove Dropbox from my Linux repository? on the Dropbox's website help pages.

Once you've added that repository as explained in the instructions under that link, you will be able to install the proprietary Dropbox client directly from the Dropbox servers using the package management system.

Basically, to install Dropbox like that, first enable the repository with

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys 5044912E
sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main"

(This is slightly more elegant than what they tell you on the help pages, but really boils down to the same), and then install the package with

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dropbox

This is the second best method. The package is still managed by the package management system, but the repository is not managed by Canonical. So while you'll receive updates via the package management system for that package, you'll just have to trust that the package provided by Dropbox will work fine with your Ubuntu system.

A slight advantage may be that this package may be more up-to-date than the nautilus-dropbox package in the multiverse repository. So if you like to be on the bleeding edge this option may be more interesting for you. However, as I said the first option will certainly work, i.e., if the Dropbox client provided in the multiverse repo does not even function anymore, this problem will certainly be taken care of.

To revert an installation performed like this, remove the package first:

sudo apt-get remove dropbox

and then remove the repository with its key:

sudo add-apt-repository -r http://linux.dropbox.com/ubuntu
sudo apt-key del 5044912E

3. Installing the Dropbox client manually

This is the worst method, and the one you referred to in your question, also explained in the Dropbox installation instructions on Dropbox's website. Basically, to install it manually do

cd ~
wget -O - "https://www.dropbox.com/download?plat=lnx.$(uname -m)" | tar xzf -

(Again, slightly more elegant than what they tell you - this will work for both 32bit and 64bit). What this does is create a copy of the Dropbox client in your home folder. This installation is local (it can only be used by the user who executed that command), not system-wide. Additionally, updates will not be managed the package management system.

According to a comment by DKBose to this answer, when installing the client like this it will still be automatically updated. If that holds true, it only means that the client itself checks for, downloads and installs its own updates. Since it is installed locally inside a user's home folder, it doesn't need root privileges to do so. However, the client is not managed by the package management system. It is very un-Linux like to rely on such proprietary, intransparent update procedures - this is usually the job of the package manager, which does this centrally and transparently, so that you can use it to list, update or remove any of your installed packages.

To remove the software, if installed like this, is accordingly ugly:

rm -r ~/.dropbox-dist/

This is for the version I just tested, and works as of now because what the downloaded archive contains is precisely this .dropbox-dist/ folder. It may change in the future. When you don't use the package manager you cannot really track what files were installed where.

I would use this method if and only if I have no root privileges on a machine, and therefore am forced to a local install. If you do have root privileges, even if you insist on using the version that comes directly from the Dropbox servers, the second method is still to be preferred. At least the package management system will track the installed files, updates happen in a more transparent fashion and removal of the software is smooth.

Summing up, my advice is this. If you installed the Dropbox client using methods 2 or 3, uninstall it, and install it using method 1. Whatever you do, with the first two methods the Dropbox client will be automatically updated by the package management system. When using the third method, the client apparently also takes care of updating itself. So basically, there's no need to worry - you will automatically get the newest version anyway.

  • "but even that should not be necessary, given that Ubuntu's update manager usually takes care of this" Although in the USC, it says of Dropbox "Canonical does not provide updates for Dropbox". I think this is where my confusion arises but I do subscribe to the theory that 'if it's not broke, don't fix it'. – Graham Aug 18 '14 at 9:21
  • Ok, I just had a quick look. Actually there exist two packages that will install the Dropbox client. One is called nautilus-dropbox, is available via the official Ubuntu repositories (multiverse), and this is the one for which what I posted in my answer applies. The other is called dropbox, and is not available in the official Ubuntu repos. If you have this you either installed it manually or added the 3rd party repo. 3rd pary repos may provide more up-to-date versions. But for novices I suggest the package from the official repos: you'll be fine. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 10:02
  • Actually, the nautilus-dropbox package will also download the proprietary version of the Dropbox client, the main difference is that it is in the official repos and undergoes some testing first. Make sure you have the nautilus-dropbox package installed (package names in USC are written in a smaller font and displayed below the package description). If you have the dropbox package instead, I suggest you remove it --and if you enabled the third-party Dropbox repo disable that too via the USC menu: Edit->Software Sources->Other Software-- and install the nautilus-dropbox package. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 10:10
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    I do not know if what I am experimenting is related to this problem. I am currently using nautilus-dropbox on a fresh ubuntu installation and the synchronization rate is incredibly slow – Donbeo Aug 22 '14 at 18:25
  • " Installing a .deb package manually means that you will not receive any more automatic updates to that package, since it was not installed via any repositories known to your system. This means you will have to keep updating that package yourself, e.g., regularly going to that Downloads page and downloading the newest version." I disagree. If you manually install a package which is also in the official channel or even in a 3rd party repo, You will get update – Anwar Jan 24 '15 at 11:40
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I would uninstall your current version through the Ubuntu Software Center. Then go to the link and download the .deb for your architecture (32 or 64 bit), and install that. That will add the repository to your system and updates will be install with regular system updates, when they are available.

  • If I download the .deb (64bit), where do I save it to and what steps do I then take to install it? – Graham Aug 18 '14 at 6:57
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    I have to disagree with @DanJohansen. Downloading a .deb file and installing it will most definitely not add any repository to the system, and hence there will be no updates to this package via the regular package management system. At the contrary, if you do this you will have to keep updating that package manually, otherwise it will always stay at the version you installed. So, my advice is to wait. I am sure that if the version of Dropbox in the official Ubuntu repositories does not work any longer, the Ubuntu devs will take care of it quickly. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 7:48
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    @DKBose That procedure you mention will do naught but install a copy of the software into your home directory (it's a cd, a wget and a tar). Possibly, that software checks for updates on its own, and installs them when they are available. Since it is a local (non system-wide) installation into a user's home folder, the software does not need root privileges to do so. However, this would mean the client updates itself and it is not in any way managed by Ubuntu's package management system. Yet one of the greatest futures shared by most Linux distributions is a package manager. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 11:49
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    Hence, unless there is a valid reason to do otherwise, I strongly advise to stick with the software provided by the package manager instead of software installed manually. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 11:50
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    No, it's just that the executable ~/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd is in the foreground of your shell. As long as it is running you will not be returned to the prompt. You can start it as ~/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd & (with the & sign) to avoid that behavior (but you'll probably want to add that application to Autostart anyway). The same warnings I've been relating all along still apply. If it's not broken don't fix it. Use the package manager, don't install software manually unless you must. But I repeat myself -- after all, it's your system. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 12:04
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I would download and install the deb, after uninstalling the old one. As the email says, there are important security improvements. Security updates are of the utmost importance and should be installed. If you wait for the repos to be updated, then you may be waiting a while.

  • As a matter of fact, getting security updates onto your system fast and reliably is one of the most important tasks of a package management system. If you don't trust that works... - well then. Best to simply completely get rid of the package manager, and install all updates manually yourself. ;) But would that really be more secure? Think about it. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 18 '14 at 18:07
  • @MalteSkoruppa So all the applications in the software center is completely up to date? Last time I checked, the steam-launcher from Software Center is miles behind the .deb from the official website. And the steam.deb from the website DOES add a repository (even though it is not used anymore). – Dan Johansen Aug 19 '14 at 10:50
  • Hey @DanJohansen, I understand your concerns that some packages may take a while to get into the repos. Yet, generally it will probably not make you safer to apt-get remove some package for which you happened to spot a more recent release and henceforth manually install and update that package yourself. You may want to read the Ubuntu SecurityTeam FAQ to learn more, particularly the section "Unofficial Software". Please note, this is the wrong place for this discussion. If you like, you can open an appropriate question and I'll happily elaborate. – Malte Skoruppa Aug 19 '14 at 11:17
  • @Malte Feel free to leave yourself open to zero day attacks while waiting on Canonical to find the time to update their repos. I have no problems with updating packages myself, when security is at hand. – uRock Dec 29 '14 at 23:51
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I found that when I installed from the drobpox package repository (which at this moment provides the same deb as the one from the download link), I was unable to use dropbox - after entering my account details, the dropbox window reported in red that I needed to install an updated version from the web page indicated in the question.

When I downloaded and unpacked the tar.gz file and installed as per instructed, dropbox is working once again.

Note that with this version, you have to run it manually (or set up something to run it automatically). Also, to connect to your dropbox account, dropboxd writes a url to the terminal where you ran it. If you paste that url into a browser and enter you account login details, dropbox starts syncing your files.

I had to do one more thing: I have my local dropbox folder symlinked to another hard drive. dropboxd didn't recognise the symlink, created an empty directory in it's place and started downloading all my files (there are many!). I killed dropboxd, recreated the symlink and restarted dropboxd again and all's fine (well, it had to re-index everything, which took a while).

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