Sync Files and Folders Outside Your My Dropbox Folder

The popular cross-platform file-syncing application Dropbox is a hit among Lifehacker readers, but it has one major drawback: It only syncs files placed inside the My Dropbox folder. Here’s how to get around that limitation.

In order to sync files and folders that live outside the My Dropbox folder, you need to create a symbolic link between the My Dropbox folder and the folder on your drive that you want to sync. Symbolic links are sort of like shortcuts, so if you had a folder called SyncMe that lived on your desktop, you’d create a symbolic link that made it appear as though SyncMe also lived inside the My Dropbox folder. This process varies depending on your operating system. On Windows:

Use either the JUNCTION utility from Sysinternals, or the MKLINK command built in to Windows Vista and Server 2008, for example:

 junction "C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\My Dropbox\DesiredFolder" "C:\Path\To\DesiredFolder"
 mklink /D "C:\Users\Steve\Documents\Dropbox\DesiredFolder" "C:\Path\To\DesiredFolder"

Or, if you prefer a GUI, install Link Shell Extension.

[You could also] use SyncToy to echo changes from another folder to your Dropbox folder. This keeps 2 copies on disk though.

On OS X or Linux, try the following:

Use the ln command, for example:

 ln -s /path/to/desired-folder ~/Dropbox/desired-folder 

This works with files too:

 ln -s /path/to/desired-file ~/Dropbox/desired-file 

Another easy way to do this with Terminal is type the ln -s part, then from Finder drag the folder/file that you want into the Terminal window then drag the Dropbox folder and hit return.

Note that an Alias file or folder does not work.

The wiki also offers an Automator workflow to streamline the process if you’re using OS X. If this syncing obstacle has held you back from using Dropbox, give these symbolic links a try. If this seems like too much of a hassle, previously mentioned Syncplicity and a few other popular file-syncing apps have user-defined sync folders baked in.

Build Your Own Plant-Boosting LED Light Spikes

For indoor plants, winter is a harsh time. Buying specialty grow lights can give your air-boosting indoor plants the right light and temperature, or you can build your own long-lasting, nifty-looking LED light spikes.

Popular science details the parts and simple wiring steps needed to create the light spikes, which can be made from any clear container and hooked up and controlled as single units or chained into a system. No soldering or other intense electrical work appears to be needed, and with an LED controller, you’ll get a great deal more control over how long, how bright, and what times your plants are getting their fake sunlight. It’s a good idea to team up the LED lights with actual sunlight, using your spikes (or other light shapes) to cover the night hours. Check out the parts list, arrange your plants for circuit lighting, and remember that your natural air cleaners will need some water, too. Thanks, Slater!